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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 00:36 GMT
Indian army sent in to quell riots
Youths burn debris and vehicles on the streets of Ahmedabad
Parts of Ahmedabad have been laid to waste
Indian army units have been sent into Gujarat's biggest city to try to stem clashes between Hindus and Muslims which left more than 40 people dead on Thursday.

Angry Hindus in Ahmedabad, the state's commercial capital, went on the rampage to avenge a train attack on Wednesday, blamed on Muslims, which left 58 mainly Hindu activists dead.


Locator map

  • Hindu activists tear down mosque at disputed holy site of Ayodhya in 1992
  • Court case and negotiations fail to resolve the dispute
  • Hindus set 15 March deadline to start building temple and begin converging on the site

      Click here for timeline of Ayodhya dispute

  • In the worst incident, at least 17 Muslims were burned alive in one housing complex, the state police commissioner, PC Pande, said, although some reports put the number of victims as high as 38.

    Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said at least 20 other people had been killed across the state.

    They included six people who were shot dead by police in Ahmedabad as they tried to restore calm.

    Soldiers have been deployed to counter Hindu youths who laid waste to whole areas, setting fire to homes, businesses and vehicles.

    Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes was said to have arrived in Ahmedabad to assess the situation.

    But there are fears that the violence could spread on Friday, when Hindu activists have called for a national strike.

    Police fire tear gas to try to quell rioters
    Police imposed curfews in 26 cities in Gujarat
    As several homes in an affluent Muslim neighbourhood in Ahmedabad were set alight, trapped residents made frantic telephone calls to police and firefighters, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    Among the victims was a former member of parliament, Ehsan Jefri, who was said to have been dragged out of his house and burned alive.

    The BBC's Jill McGivering says the final death toll from Thursday's violence may never be known.

    Retaliation

    The carnage came a day after a suspected Muslim mob attacked a train carrying activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) back from the disputed holy site of Ayodhya.

    Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
    Vajpayee has cancelled his trip to the Commonwealth summit

    The Hindu VHP group is threatening to build a temple on the site in Ayodhya where hardliners tore down a 16th century mosque in 1992.

    There are widespread fears that the latest clashes could trigger a repeat of the nationwide communal violence that followed the mosque's destruction.

    Police said about 700 people had been arrested across the state, and 26 cities have been put under curfew.

    In the city of Godhra, where the train attack took place, 21 Muslim men were among those arrested. The streets there are deserted, with schools and shops closed.

    Communal tensions

    Political leaders have condemned the attack on the train, but also appealed to the VHP not to press ahead with its plans to build a temple in Ayodhya.

    The VHP has said it will defy the orders of the government and the courts, and start construction work in March.

    Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has appealed for calm and an end to religious violence, and called off his trip to a Commonwealth summit in Australia.

    Mr Vajpayee's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which shares many of the aspirations of Hindu nationalist groups, is under great pressure from opposition parties and from some of its coalition partners to prevent the temple issue escalating.

    But the BBC's Satish Jacob in Delhi says the government's ability to influence hardline Hindu groups like the VHP is in question.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Jill McGivering
    "We are getting reports of sporadic violence again"
    I D Swamy, Indian Ministry of Home Affairs
    "We hope that we will be able to bring everything under control"
    The BBC's Satish Jacob
    "He is the third policeman to die in the riots in the past 24 hours"
    See also:

    26 Feb 02 | South Asia
    Vajpayee firm on Ayodhya
    25 Feb 02 | South Asia
    Militants converge on Ayodhya
    14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
    Country profile: India
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