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Hundreds of Hindu nationalists clash with police outside parliament after being barred from conducting a religious march at a disputed holy site at the heart of deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

NEW DELHI // Hundreds of Hindu nationalists clashed with police yesterday outside parliament after being barred from conducting a religious march at a disputed holy site at the heart of deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

Police used water cannons and bamboo batons to disperse 500 members and supporters of the World Hindu Council as they broke security barriers near the parliament building.

The city of Ayodhya, 550 kilometres east of New Delhi, has been under heavy security since last week, when the local government banned the march fearing communal violence. Muslims say the site is the location of a former medieval mosque, while Hindus say it is the birthplace of their god Rama and that a temple stood there before the mosque was built.

On Sunday, more than 600 people were arrested in Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located, as a right-wing organisation tried to stage the march despite the state government banning it.

Hundreds of workers belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or the World Hindu Council, carried flags and shouted slogans in the capital New Delhi yesterday in support of their members arrested on Sunday.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also the country's main opposition party, condemned the arrests.

The two houses of parliament adjourned yesterday amid uproar over the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's march and the arrests.

"By preventing the religious march, the state government has insulted the Hindus," Yogi Adityanath, a BJP member of parliament, said. "We are demanding that a magnificent temple should be constructed in Ayodhya. The government should bring a law for this."

 

* Associated Press, with additional reporting by Bloomberg