UNESCO Condemns Quran Burning in India


 

The UN cultural organization condemned a reported incident in which the Muslim holy book was burned by Hindu hardliners in India, and demanded respect for sacred objects worldwide.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) special envoy Pierre Lafrance, during a visit to India, expressed indignation at the reported desecration of the Quran.

"One of UNESCO's missions is to try and foster peace between people of different beliefs which is a prerequisite for peace in the world."

He said he was "aggrieved to see reaction appearing in a non-Muslim country," apparently referring to India.

"UNESCO condemns with utter indignation all actions taken in the shape of retaliation against sanctity of Muslim holy places and holy books."

Lafrance arrived in Pakistan last month as a special emissary to prevent the destruction of Buddhist relics in Afghanistan, although the ruling Taliban went ahead, rejecting all international pleas.

Last week's communal riots in India and occupied Kashmir left 13 dead and many more seriously injured.

Violence broke out in a few areas of the country after activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India tried to burn an effigy of Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee to protest against the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in Delhi.

Copies of the Quran were reportedly burned by Hindu extremists in protest to the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

To further incite anger among Muslims, copies of pictures of the holy Quran being burned were being sold for RS 5 (1 cent), provoking even more trouble and unrest among the people.

So far the riot has claimed more than 13 lives and has left a large number seriously injured.

The worst riot hit areas known so far have been Kanpur, parts of Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources say a curfew had been imposed immediately in the riot prone area of Kanpur.

Troops of armed police forces and paramilitary forces had been engaged there to bring the situation under immediate control and some preventive arrests were also made.

A night curfew will remain to continue for some time until the situation becomes completely normal.

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, on Wednesday blamed the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) on Wednesday for being behind the Kanpur riots.

Meanwhile an all-party delegation of Muslim members of the parliament consisting of Sayed Shahnawaz Hussein, E Ahmed, Hannan Mollah and Mansoor Ali Khan met the Prime Minister to demand the presence of the Army in the riot prone area of Kanpur.

They also demanded the government provide adequate monetary compensation to the families of those killed in the riots, but both demands were rejected.

Angry protests broke out in Punjab Thursday after reports that another incident of Quran burning had taken place.

One person was shot dead by the Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF).

Meanwhile, security was tightened after hundreds of people clashed with the police in several parts of Jammu and Kashmir in protest against the alleged burning of the Muslim holy book. Another Muslim was shot dead by the CRPF as they cracked down on angry mobs.

A curfew was imposed in the areas around Jammu and Kashmir but was eased on Sunday.

Expectations of a quick return to normalcy remained high but anticipation of further violence seemed inevitable.

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Anuradha Hazra lives in Calcutta, India. AFP contributed to this report.


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