It's one of the biggest challenges Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony has faced so far. It may have already cost him the Ernakulam by-election, which his Congress party lost to the opposition Left Democratic Front. And unless Antony is done with it, his own and his party's commitment to the state's secular character will remain unproved.
From rediff archives: Violence in Kerala, 8 killed
The Antony government has deployed nearly 10,000 police personnel in northern Kerala's violence wracked Marad village, hoping that their presence will give the Muslim residents the confidence to return to their homes.
Will it? It's a big question mark.
Exactly five months back, eight Hindus and a Muslim died in a fierce clash between the two communities. Over 400 families fled the village soon after fearing a Hindu backlash.
Every time some of them tried to return, Vishwa Hindu Parishad-backed local Hindu groups made their displeasure known and raised the specter of a revenge strike.
The Arya Samajam -- which forms the core of this opposition to the rehabilitation of Muslim families in Marad -- insists the government must order a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the May 2 carnage and pay Rs 10 lakh compensation each to the kin of those killed.
But the Antony government does not want the rehabilitation held hostage to any conditionalities.
It has it own political compulsions. The Muslim League, a part of the ruling United Democratic Front, wants to see the Muslim families returning to their homes as soon as possible.
The government's attempts so far at rehabilitating the villagers have been in vain. But this time it has decided to press ahead with it come what may.
"The process of rehabilitation at Marad is complete. We have deployed enough police personnel in the village to ensure that the resettlement of the families does not pose any law and order problem," Additional Secretary K K Vijayakumar, who is overseeing the rehabilitation effort, told rediff.com.
Antony too has made his intentions clear: "I want to make sure that the wounds of the Marad carnage do not linger too long. We want everyone to cooperate with the government. We have done everything to ensure that another Marad incident does not occur in Kerala," he said recently
Investigations into the Marad killings so far have revealed that the massacre was the handiwork by the relatives of the Muslims who were killed in the same village last year.
The wedge between the Hindus and Muslims here has been widening steadily.
Arya Samajam president K Dasan, who has been leading the agitation against the Muslim rehabilitation, says the government has so far neglected the Hindus' demands.
"First we want the government to order an impartial CBI inquiry into the killings in Marad. Merely rehabilitating the Muslims in the village does not help re-establish peace in Marad," Dasan told rediff.com.
With pressure mounting on Antony, the government may concede to the demand for a CBI inquiry.