By Imran Khan, Indo Asian News Service
Patna, May 27 (IANS) Buddhists are up in arms against attempts to project Lord Buddha as an incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu.
Minor skirmishes broke out Sunday over the issue between Buddhists and Hindus gathered in Bodh Gaya, the pilgrim town 110 km south of this capital city, where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
The occasion was Buddh Purnima, the full moon day when the Buddha is said to have been born 2,546 years ago. The event is the most important on the Buddhist calendar.
Buddhists from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India gathered in large numbers at Bodh Gaya to celebrate. But they objected to Hindu rightwing groups trying to portray Buddha as the "ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu."
But some say the real bone of contention between the two groups is control over the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya.
In March, Buddhist monks at the historic temple kicked up a storm, demanding that its entire management be handed over to them instead of being headed by a Hindu.
Around 200 Buddhist monks encircled the 7th-century temple in Bodh Gaya and sat on protest.
This month the All India Monks' Association asked Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu to intervene in the tussle between Hindus and Buddhists over the control of the temple.
The temple ownership is vested with the state government while its management comprises a committee of nine members nominated by the state government, with a Hindu district magistrate as its chairman.
As per the 1949 Temple Management Act, a Buddhist cannot become committee chairman as the post is reserved for a Hindu. If the district magistrate happens to be a non-Hindu, the state government has to nominate a Hindu.
But a group of Buddhist leaders have accused the temple management committee of indifference in the maintenance of the sacred place and demanded that they be handed over control.
Hindu rightwing groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have been opposing any amendment in the Temple Management Act as they see Buddhism as part of the larger Hindu family.
Bodh Gaya remains the most important Buddhist pilgrimage centre, attracting a large number of pilgrims and tourists from across the world.
The temple's main attraction is a 150-foot high pyramid spire at the site of the Buddha's original Bodhi Tree, along with a golden image of the Buddha.
Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has asked the BJP leadership to rein in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal during the end of the 100-day purna ahuti yagna in Ayodhya on June 2.
Sources close to the BSP president Kanshi Ram told rediff.com that Mayawati has cautioned the BJP top brass that she would not hesitate to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act against those trying to create trouble in Ayodhya.
The sources said, "Behanji (Mayawati) has taken the reports of some elements trying to disturb the communal environment of the state seriously. These elements are distributing CDs of Godhra carnage."
Mayawati, last Saturday, while addressing her first press conference in New Delhi after becoming chief minister, expressed grave apprehensions at the 'attempts being made' to communalise the environment in Uttar Pradesh.
Sources said Mayawati categorically told the BJP leadership that if groups like Students Islamic Movement of India could be proscribed under POTA for whipping up communal tension, Hindu fundamentalist groups could also brought under the purview of the anti-terrorism act.
Mayawati's ultimatum to its supporting partner is also seen as a tactic to gain the confidence of the minority community, as also to make inroads into the vote bank of the Samajwadi Party.
BSP sources also said that minority leaders have been urging Mayawati to reopen the Babri Masjid demolition case against Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, Union Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Uma Bharati.