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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 14:53 GMT
Eyewitness: Muslims under siege
Muslim children in Ahmedabad
The tales of atrocity are almost too chilling to believe
test hello test
By Adam Mynott
BBC correspondent in Ahmedabad
line

Asif Ali is beyond grief.

Numbed with pain, he sits cross legged on the ground with his badly burned son in his arms, a blank, uncomprehending emptiness in his gaze.


We have been abandoned ... abandoned to die

Muslim man

His wife and two other children were thrown into a fire by a Hindu mob and burned alive before his eyes.

His baby son, who has not uttered a sound since his mother, brother and sister were killed, was burned too - his little limbs and body are scarred with weeping wounds.

The two are sheltering with about 4,500 other terrified Muslims in the Shah Alam Mosque in Ahmedabad.

"I will not leave this place", says Asif, "we will be killed."

'Abandoned'

Every hour more Muslim refugees arrive in the mosque compound. They have come from far and wide, aware that this is one of the few places around Ahmedabad that offers some safety.

Police in Ahmedabad
Muslims say police did nothing to protect them

It offers little else.

There are scant medical facilities and little food and water, and no one has visited to bring help from the local authority.

"We have been abandoned ... abandoned to die," said one man who had lost four members of his family to the rampaging mob.

The tales of mediaeval atrocity are almost too chilling to believe.

Aside from the mob onslaught, the police stand accused of callous inactivity last Thursday and Friday as the riots and killings grew in intensity.

In parts of the old town of Ahmedabad, a curfew is in place and no-one is allowed onto the streets.

Eery calm

The heaving bustle of merchant life, which was replaced by scenes of barbarity and mayhem is gone, it is now eerily quiet.

Small groups of khaki clad soldiers stand on street corners.

Homeless Muslim in Ahmedabad
Hundreds of Muslims are now homeless

Nearby, men from the Rapid Action Force in their unmistakable blue camouflage uniforms lean on their rifles and lathi sticks.

But the Muslim community says their arrival after rioting flared on Thursday was anything but rapid.

The shutters on some shops on the fringes of the worst affected areas are starting to come down but others will never re-open.

Premises owned by Muslims or bearing Muslim names were clinically singled out for destruction.

A row of shops in the town centre is intact except for one, which is blackened and destroyed - it was a shoe shop managed by a Muslim family.

They are gone and they have nothing to come back to, their premises looted and then doused in petrol and destroyed.

Partition

The Muslim and Hindu communities mingled and did business on the margins in Ahmedabad before last Wednesday.

But the religious and ethnic gulf is as wide now as it was during the partition of the sub-continent in 1947.

These have been the worst communal riots in India for more than a decade, described by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as "a disgrace to the nation".

But his critics are now saying the riots were a disgrace to the political leaders who were warned they might happen, and when they did they watched and did nothing.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Frei in Ahmedabad
"It would be wrong just to put this down to hatred"
See also:

04 Mar 02 | South Asia
More deaths reported in Gujarat
03 Mar 02 | South Asia
India violence 'under control'
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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