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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-07-2006, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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Coordinated Bombings Kill 15 in India

More violence in India (sigh)

By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press

VARANASI, India - A series of coordinated bombings rocked a packed railway station and crowded temple Tuesday in Hinduism's holiest city, killing at least 15 people and injuring dozens in an attack that raised fears of communal violence.

Cities across India were put on high alert as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm, said his spokesman, Sanjaya Baru.

"Stern action will be initiated against all those found involved," said Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state where Tuesday's blasts occurred.

The attacks, which injured at least 62 people, came only days after Hindus and Muslims fought in the streets of Lucknow, leaving four people dead, during a visit to India by President Bush. The next day, angry Hindus looted Muslim shops and burned vehicles in the coastal resort of Goa in a dispute over a mosque demolition.

It was unclear whether Tuesday's bombings were the work of anti-government or anti-Hindu militant groups or were connected to Bush's visit.

At least 10 people died in what appeared to be two bombings at Varanasi's train station, and five others were killed in another blast at the temple on the banks of the holy Ganges River, said Alok Sinha, a senior state official. However, since the bodies were counted at the mortuary, he could not be sure how many died in each place.

Another senior official, Kamlesh Pathak, said two unexploded bombs — one hidden in a pressure cooker and the other in a backpack — were found at Varanasi's Godowalia Market and defused by police.

The Press Trust of India news agency, meanwhile, reported that security officials found four unexploded bombs at a bathing platform on the banks of the Ganges, a few miles away.

The blast at the Sankat Mochan temple went off near dusk, when the shrine was crowded with Hindus making special Tuesday offerings to the monkey-god Hanuman, said police inspector Madan Mohan Pande.

At least 22 people were wounded in the temple blast, police official Mohammed Hashmi said.

Televised footage showed a man, his face bloodied, lying on a stretcher. An old woman lay on the floor, holding up her arms to helpers, who pulled her away. Debris, body parts and blood covered the temple floor.

Most witness accounts of the blasts at the city's crowded railway station said one bomb went off either in or next to a train car and the other near the ticket counter in the waiting room.

At least 40 people were injured there, 22 of them seriously, Pathak said.

One witness, Sunil Yadav, described a scene of confusion, with people running and screaming.

"It was a high-intensity blast," a man identified only as Pradeep told the CNN-IBN television station. "After the blast people were running like anything."

Varanasi, 450 miles east of Delhi, is Hinduism's holiest city and ordinarily is filled with pilgrims visiting temples and bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges, which runs through the city.

It also is a popular spot with foreign tourists, especially backpackers.

Home Secretary V.K. Duggal said Tuesday's blasts were similar to Oct. 29 bombings in New Delhi that killed 60 people.

Like those blasts, blamed on Islamic militants fighting to wrest predominantly Muslim
Kashmir from India, the Varanasi explosions occurred within 10 minutes of each other, Duggal said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

While Varanasi is a largely Hindu city, it also has a sizable Muslim population.

Police and paramilitary troops fanned out in Varanasi after Tuesday's explosions, and political leaders, among them top officials for the Hindu nationalist opposition, headed for the city.

The attack on the Hindu holy city came days after Muslims and Hindus battled each other in two other Indian cities, raising fears of a repeat of Hindu-Muslim violence that rocked western India in 2002 after 60 Hindus pilgrims were killed in a train fire initially blamed on Muslims.

That rioting left more than 1,000 people dead over three months. Human rights groups say it was encouraged — and at times outrightly directed — by politicians.

Although officials have not yet said who they believed was behind Tuesday's attack, many in India clearly suspected Muslim extremists.

On Friday, there were clashes in the nearby city of Lucknow after Hindu shop owners refused to respect a general strike called by Muslim leaders to protest Bush's visit to India. Four people were killed.

On Saturday, hundreds of Hindus rampaged through a town in coastal Goa, storming a police station, beating officers, looting Muslim shops and burning vehicles and buildings. The violence came after Muslims demonstrated to protest the demolition of a mosque by suspected Hindu extremists.


Associated Press reporter Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow contributed to this report.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-09-2006, 05:58 PM
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RE: Coordinated Bombings Kill 15 in India

Muslim girl dances social divide
By John Mary in Malappuram, Kerala

The family of a young Muslim girl in India's southern state of Kerala say they are being shunned by the local mosque committee (mahallu) because she is practising Indian classical dance.

VP Rubiya, 16, came first in Bharatnatyam, Kerala natanam and folk dance competitions at the recent Kerala School Festival.

She also won the dance competition at the Veeran Haji Memorial Higher Secondary School at Morayur in the Muslim-dominated district of Malappuram.

It was Rubiya's 27 points that helped her home district move up from seventh to fifth position at the state school festival.

Now she has an offer from the celebrated Indian dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai's dance academy, Darpana, her father Syed Alavikutty says.


The local mosque committee at Valluvambram, however, is not impressed by Rubiya's feats, says her father, a clerk with a travel agency.

"If she had won prizes in 'oppana' and 'mappila pattu' [traditional Muslim art forms], she would have been flooded with gifts by now. The mahallu leaders would never openly admit that it is her dance that makes them treat us as virtual outcasts," says Mr Alavikutty.

Rubiya, who started learning music and dance when she was three, is busy preparing for school examinations due next month. But she snatches time in between for stage performances at local temples.

She has no choice because stage shows help her with some extra income to support her and her parents, as well as an elder brother and a younger sister.

"My fee ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 rupees ($22 to $66). I have performed at more than 50 temples," says Rubiya.

She has been fortunate to be trained by dance gurus like RLV Anand, who has never taken a rupee from her other than what she offers as gifts.

Both he and Bharatanjali Sasi, Rubiya's Kerala natanam dance teacher, even buy her costumes for her competitions.

"I'm confident that she will bring us laurels. That's all we need," says Mr Anand, extolling the virtues of the rare find from a community that still fights shy of classical dances.

Teachers' favourite

Rubiya is the darling of her teachers and friends at the Veeran Haji high school.

"God is one. When I pay ritualistic obeisance through mudras [hand signs], I am imploring not just the Hindu gods but the supreme creator, which we call by different names," she says.

It is the Hindu worship content in the classical dances that her family says has driven a chasm between her and conservative elements in the community.

KP Raihemath, a teacher who takes her to competitions, says there is nothing un-Islamic in Bharatnatyam dance. "If she were my own daughter, I would still do the same."

Another teacher CP Sheena says Rubiya is a role model for her peers.

A class topper and a National Cadet Corps cadet, Rubiya has already scored 30 bonus marks which would enhance her exam scores and improve her chances of joining a professional course after secondary school.

At the moment, however, a professional degree is not what she wants to do.

"I will practice and excel as a classical dancer. My ambition is to do research in dance and contribute to society in my humble way," she says.

Membership of a particular mosque committee for Muslim families depends on where they live.

"If you are not a mahallu member, the kazi [priest] will not bless your child's marriage. Worse, you are even denied a slot in the local cemetery," said Mr Alavikutty, who has also dabbled in acting with a troupe in Kerala.

'Heavy price'

Rubiya's mother Amina says she does not regret sending her daughter to dance.

"But we had to pay a heavy price. I have even survived a bout of cancer only after well-wishers sent us money for treatment. But the parish leaders ensured that all official help bypassed us," she says, wiping her tears.

Rubiya has become a role model in school
"If I die today, where will my husband bury me? Would the parish endorse my daughter's marriage?"

Mohammed Unni Haji, secretary of the Valluvambram mosque committee, denies they are against Rubiya's dancing.

"We do not object to her artistic persuasions. If Rubiya and her family, living in a rented house, shift to a house on the road under our jurisdiction, we will admit them."

Local politician Nalakathu Asain says the mosque committee leaders are not speaking the truth.

"This talk about jurisdiction is an alibi. There are several families outside the Valluvambram jurisdiction that enjoy mahallu membership," he says.

Mr Alavikutty says that his cousins who live outside Valluvambram are members of the mosque committee.

But the family is not deterred by this.

"The parish doors might never open for us, but the world is not too small for the brave," he says.
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