Indian PM orders investigation of Quran burning charges

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2001

NEW DELHI, India (AP) -- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ordered an investigation to determine if a copy of the Muslim sacred book, the Quran, was burned by people protesting the destruction of Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

Reports of the burning of the Quran during a March 5 demonstration outside United Nations headquarters have caused riots in several cities.

''If any such incident has occurred, the government condemns it,'' said Pramod Mahajan, Vajpayee's parliamentary affairs minister. He then criticized those who had mentioned the incident, saying that discussion of such events ''caused tension in various parts of the country.''

Vajpayee ordered a report on the alleged incident. He was responding to G.M. Banatwala, a member of a Muslim party, who accused the government of not taking any action against the culprits. He accused members of two Hindu nationalists groups.

The groups have staged anti-Muslim protests before. Banatwala said they burned the Quran as they protested outside the U.N. offices against the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan by that nation's leaders, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement.

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