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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 15:25 GMT
India violence 'under control'
A Muslim refugee centre in Ahmedabad
Many on both sides still fear reprisals
India's Home Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, has said that religious violence in the western state of Gujarat - which has claimed the lives of nearly 500 people in four days - is "tapering down".


The state is responsible for the security of every single citizen, irrespective of the religion and the community he adheres to

LK Advani
Home Minister

Mr Advani was speaking to journalists in Ahmedabad while on a visit to the riot-affected areas of the state.

But he added that the decrease in violence between Hindus and Muslims was not enough, and that a sense of security needed to be restored among the people.

Further incidents of arson and looting have been reported from villages in the state, although the main cities are now said to be relatively calm.

The army has moved into major troublespots and the authorities have imposed curfews and restricted news broadcasts to try to defuse the situation.

Locator map
Broadcasts by Pakistani TV have been banned within the state, and the Indian Star News channel was also taken off the air temporarily.

The central government has been strongly criticised for not sending in the army sooner to help bring the violence under control.

The violence erupted when Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu activists in the town of Godhra on Wednesday, killing 58 people - mostly women and children.

Enraged Hindus have retaliated by going on the rampage in Muslim areas, burning many people to death in their homes.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has appealed for calm, saying the "burning alive of people, including women and children is a blot on the country's face".

"Whatever the provocation, people should maintain peace and exercise restraint," he said in a national broadcast.

Woman and child in Ahmedabad
Many in Ahmedabad are afraid to leave their homes
A BBC correspondent says an uneasy calm is still in place in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital, where more than 100 people have been killed.

Government security official Ashok Narayan told Reuters news agency that the death toll had risen as bodies were recovered, rather than because of any fresh violence.

Gujarat's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, said: "Ahmedabad is returning to normal. We believe the rest of the state will also soon recover."

But some Ahmedabad residents said they had set up self-defence groups.

And groups of young Hindus brandished sticks outside their homes and said they feared reprisal attacks from Muslims.

Nearly 100 Muslims are reported to have taken refuge inside a mosque in the Kalupur area of Ahmedabad.

"We are trying to save ourselves today but we will hit back," said one of those who had taken shelter.

Long-running dispute

The Hindus who died on the train were members of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) party, returning from a disputed holy site in the town of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Tensions between Hindus and Muslims have been building because the VHP wants to begin building a temple at Ayodhya, on the site where supporters of the VHP and other Hindu groups razed a mosque in 1992.

That triggered savage rioting throughout India in which more than 2,000 people died.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The full force of rioting and murder has dissipated"
Naresh Dayal, Gujarat state home secretary
"Apart from sporadic violence...the state is quite peaceful at the moment"
Praveen Togadiya, VHP secretary general
"Our democratic right to have a religious ceremony has been jeopardised by the government"
See also:

02 Mar 02 | South Asia
Ravaged Ahmedabad limps back to life
01 Mar 02 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Bloodshed in Gujarat
01 Mar 02 | South Asia
In pictures: Troops in Gujarat
01 Mar 02 | Media reports
Indian press shocked by bloodshed
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
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