To tackle terrorism by Islamic militants, "Hindus should also be ready to give their lives ... form suicide squads," said Bal Thackeray, head of the Shiv Sena party, which is a partner in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's coalition government.
"The Vajpayee government cannot remain silent. It must come out denouncing this speech, as the Shiv Sena is a partner in the government," the Communist Party of India-Marxist said. In a statement, the party called on the government of Maharashtra state, where Bombay is the capital, to file charges of inciting hatred against religious minorities.
Thackeray holds no official post, but is the powerful leader of the Bombay-based Shiv Sena, founded to serve the interests of poor Hindus. His call for Hindu suicide squads came during a public rally Tuesday, during which he spoke of a terrorist attack on a Hindu temple in neighboring Gujarat state last month in which more than 30 people were killed. Gujarat was also the site of religious riots earlier this year, in which 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims killed by Hindus.
Most newspapers in Bombay dismissed Thackeray's statements, although the largest city in India has frequently been the scene of riots between Hindus and Muslims. Five were killed in such a riot last Friday.