India Death Toll Rises in Religious Rioting

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 14:21:24 -0000

AHMADABAD, India (AP) -- Chaos spread through this western Indian city
Friday and the death toll over three days of Hindu-Muslim violence
climbed to 251, despite patrols by hundreds of soldiers and orders for
police to shoot rioters and arsonists on sight.

In the worst attack, hundreds of Hindus set fire to huts in a Muslim
shantytown, killing 52 people as they slept, police said. After 27
charred bodies were pulled from the ashes, an additional 25 people died
in the hospital; officials said 17 were being treated for serious burns.

The Hindu attacks are apparently revenge for a Muslim attack on a train
Wednesday, in which 58 people died, mostly Hindus. Government officials
refused to speculate about whether Hindus have died in clashes with
Muslims since the train fire.
The worst violence seemed limited to western Gujarat state. The state's
home secretary, K. Nityanandam, ordered police to shoot rioters and
arsonists on sight Friday, and said 900 soldiers were patrolling the
state capital, Ahmadabad, an industrial city of 3.5 million.
Nine people were killed by police gunfire, State Minister I.K. Jadeja
said. These included at least three Hindus, officials said.

Gangs of Hindus blockaded roads, searched cars for Muslims and set fire
to shops and homes, continuing the rampages of the day before. Victims
slain Thursday lay where they fell through the night, with guns firing,
fires burning and chilling mob war cries.
After dawn, survivors ventured out to collect their dead and seek
treatment for their wounds. People streamed into hospitals, mostly for
treatment of stab wounds, but also for safety.
Police said they could not control the spreading violence, as gangs
blockaded roads, searched cars for Muslims, set fire to Muslim shops and
homes and fought each other.
Police opened fire at Muslims and Hindus who were tossing bombs at each
other near a mosque in the suburb of Bapunagar, said Deputy Police
Commissioner R.J. Savani. He said six were killed and 70 were
hospitalized, but gave no further details.

``All through Thursday we were busy trying to protect the minority
community (Muslims) from attacks from Hindus, but since this morning the
retaliation has started,'' Savani said. ``It has now turned to group
clashes.''

Savani refused to speculate about whether Hindus had been targeted by
Muslims.
Nityanandam said 1,200 people had been arrested since Thursday, when
Hindus first rampaged through Ahmadabad and 31 other towns, killing
Muslims and burning their property during a strike the state government
had supported. The strike had been called by Hindu nationalists
affiliated with the governing party to protest the train attack.

The fiery train attack in the small town of Godhra killed 58, including
14 children; 42 others were injured, including 20 hospitalized for burns
or smoke inhalation.
Police said 63 people had been arrested on charges of murder and
attempted murder in the train attack.

The Hindu groups said that action was not enough, and called for a
nationwide strike on Friday, but that did not materialize.
There was stone-throwing in Bombay, India's financial capital in a state
bordering Gujarat. A train carrying thousands of passengers was derailed
when Hindu activists placed concrete blocks across the tracks in a
northeastern Bombay suburb, in an effort to enforce the strike. No
injuries were reported.

There was little evidence of the strike or violence elsewhere, including
the national capital of New Delhi, although police were out in force.

Despite curfews in 36 towns in Gujarat state, there was no let up in
arson, looting and assaults, prompting Muslim groups to call for direct
federal rule in the state.
Most of the Muslims in the shantytown of Narora, on the outskirts of
Ahmadabad, had fled Thursday, fearing they would be targets of the
Hindus roaming the city as police watched, unwilling or unable to stop
them.

But the fire sparked at 2 a.m. trapped sleeping shanty dwellers who
stayed behind, said Deputy Police Commissioner P.B. Gondya. Seven women
and eight children were among the bodies recovered.
In Thursday's worst violence, 2,000 Hindus set fire to six homes in an
affluent Muslim neighborhood in Ahmadabad. At least 38 people burned to
death, including 12 children. Hundreds of Muslim homes, stores, hotels,
and restaurants were torched or looted by the attackers.

``Police can't protect each lane and bylane,'' said Police Commissioner
P.C. Pandey, responding to criticism that thousands of police watched
silently as Hindus targeted Muslims.
Tensions have been growing between Muslims and Hindu nationalists who
have been traveling across Gujarat by train to Ayodhya, in northern
India, where the World Hindu Council plans to start constructing a
temple next month on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque.

The 1992 destruction of the mosque by Hindus sparked nationwide riots
that killed 2,000 people. The government has called for calm, fearing
bloodshed could spread quickly in this nation of more than 1 billion,
where Hindu-Muslim fighting killed nearly a million people after
independence in 1947.

Rajendra Singh, the police superintendent in northern Uttar Pradesh,
said 10,000 paramilitary troops had surrounded Ayodhya to prevent
violence. Some 20,000 Hindu activists have gathered to pray for the
temple construction.

Source: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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