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Muslims unwelcome in Kerala's Marad village

George Iype in Kochi | August 12, 2003 23:51 IST

More than three months after the killing of eight Hindus in the coastal Marad village of Kerala, the rehabilitation of the Muslim families that had fled continues to be a problem for the A K Antony government.

Nearly 400 Muslim families had vacated the area fearing a backlash. Out of them around 250 now want to return. But stiff opposition from local groups backed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has forced the government to put off the rehabilitation.

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Whenever some of the families return, threats from a local group called Araya Samajam compel them to go back.

On Sunday, Araya Samajam president K Dasan led a crowd to the house of one Ummer and threatened him and his family. Though the police have registered cases against Dasan and 20 others, Ummer went back with his family to government-run refugee camps.

The VHP and other groups insist they will not allow the refugees to return unless the government orders a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the killings, gives Rs 10 lakh compensation to each victim's family, and forces Industry Minister P K Kunhalikutty, who they accuse of orchestrating the attack, to resign. According to them, some of those arrested in connection with the case belong to Kunhalikutty's party, the Indian National Muslim League.

There are other demands too. "There are nearly 300 Hindu families that have been displaced from Marad and the adjoining coastal villages in the last few years because of Muslim extremism. We want the government to rehabilitate these Hindu families before it gives refuge to the Muslim families," Dasan told rediff.com

He said all those who have been arrested for the Marad killings should be tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. "We also want the government to keep the Marad Jama Masjid in its custody till the case is over."

The police had recovered explosives and arms from the mosque two days after the killings. A special investigation team of the Kerala police crime branch has already filed charge sheets against 147 accused, who are in judicial custody in Kannur Central Prison and the Kozhikode subjail.

According to Dasan, anti-national terrorist outfits like the Al-Umma and Lashkar-e-Tayiba, at the behest of Pakistan, are engaged in driving Hindus out of the coastal areas. "There used to be lots of Hindu families living across the coastal areas across Kerala. But now the numberů has come down because of the penetration of extremist Muslim groups."

The chief minister has decided to call yet another all-party meeting to find an amicable solution to the problem. Officials said Antony would also meet VHP state general secretary Kummanam Rajashekharan to try and lower tensions and restore normalcy in Marad and the adjoining villages.

Rajashekharan is also the convener of a host of other groups such as the Hindu Aikya Vedi, Dheevara Sabha, Viswakarma Maha Sabha and Araya Samajam.

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