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Sunday, 8 September, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Hindu march sets off in Gujarat
Riots in Gujarat
Hundreds died in anti-Muslim rioting in February
A mass procession organised in the Indian state of Gujarat by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set off amid tight security arrangements.


Through the rally, we will reach out to the people in every part of Gujarat and help them regain pride in their state

Chief Minister Narendra Modi

At least 2,000 policemen have been deployed in the temple town of Phagvel in the central district of Kheba from where the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, or Pride of Gujarat, procession started.

The march - which will criss-cross through the state for 45 days - is being led by the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, and the local BJP leader, Rajendrasing Rana.

The procession follows serious religious violence in Gujarat earlier this year in which at least 1,000 people died.

March route

Billed as a celebration of Gujarat's achievements, the chariot procession is due to cover a 153 km route on Sunday.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi: Will lead parade

It will culminate in a public rally at Himmatnagar in the northern district of Sabarkantha.

The District Collector of Kheda said there was no tension in the district.

"We have made security arrangements considering that about 100,000 people will be there to listen to Modi's public address," a local administrator told the Associated Press news agency.

On Monday, the procession is due to cover a longer route of 187km.

The march has been planned to project a positive image of Gujarat and the ruling BJP, said the organisers.

Religious riots

The march follows the worst religious violence in the state in a decade in which at least 1,000 people - mostly Muslims were killed.

Indian policemen
There are fears the march could inflame tensions
The violence started on 27 February after a mob - believed to be predominantly Muslim - torched a train with Hindu pilgrims.

Nearly 60 people were killed in the attack, which sparked mass communal riots around the state.

Many Muslims condemned the decision to hold the march after the tragic events.

But Mr Modi on Friday tried to allay fears that the procession had ideological motives.

"A lot of people feel that Gujarat was born only after February 27 but they forget the Gujarat that existed before that," he said.

"This has damaged the image of Gujarat and affected the pride and self-confidence of the people here.

"Through the rally, we will reach out to the people in every part of Gujarat and help them regain pride in their state."

The procession was originally planned for 4 July but was put off amid fears that it might trigger a resurgence of the religious violence.

The BJP then said the march would be held on 3 September, but was forced to postpone it two more times, after the opposition Congress Party announced a parallel march.

Gujarat conflict in-depth

Key vote

Tense state

Background

BBC WORLD SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

07 Sep 02 | South Asia
12 Jul 02 | South Asia
03 Jul 02 | South Asia
08 May 02 | South Asia
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