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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 10:09 GMT
Hindu hardliners 'led Gujarat attacks'
Violence in Ahmedabad
VHP leaders are alleged to have led the mobs
Police in the Indian state of Gujarat say hardline Hindu leaders led some of the mobs involved in recent riots in which more than 600 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

Preliminary police reports name local leaders of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) in two attacks in the state's commercial capital, Ahmedabad, that left nearly 100 Muslims dead.

These persons, armed with weapons, led a mob of 20,000 to 22,000

Inspector Kirit Areda, Meghaninagar police station
The VHP is leading a campaign to build a temple on the ruins of a demolished mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, a dispute which is being seen by some of having triggered off the riots.

On Tuesday the VHP agreed to place their plan on hold after talks with one of India's top Hindu leaders, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswati.

'Leading the mobs'

First Information Reports (FIR) into the two attacks, which took place in the suburbs of Meghanignagar and Naroda, say local VHP leaders led mobs which set houses in the Muslim-dominated areas ablaze.

Filing an FIR is the first step in an Indian criminal investigation.

In Meghaninagar, 42 Muslims including a former MP of the Congress Party, were burnt to death when their housing complex, Gulbarg, was attacked.

A Muslim man cries during a peace meeting in Ahmedabad
Most of those killed were Muslims

Police Inspector Kirit Areda lodged a report in which he alleged that a local VHP leader, Deepak Patel, led the Hindu attackers.

"These persons, armed with weapons, led a mob of 20,000 to 22,000 which attacked Gulbarg Society and set it ablaze," Inspector Areda's report was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Another report filed at Naroda police station accused nine VHP leaders of leading an attack which killed 50 Muslim factory workers living in a shantytown.

But Gujarat state VHP joint secretary Jaideep Patel said the police had "falsely implicated" his colleagues.

Rejecting criticism

The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, angrily denied on Tuesday that his government had failed to do enough to stop the violence.

In an interview with the BBC Mr Modi, described his government's response as a success story.

He said that he was not happy about what had happened in Gujarat but he was happy about the response of the authorities and defended the police, saying they had done excellent work.

Temple issue

The violence broke out last Wednesday when 60 Hindu activists were killed in an attack on a train in Gujarat.

A cycle of retaliatory bloodshed followed soon after.

Since then, the Indian Government has been trying to persuade the VHP to stand down from their controversial temple campaign.

The VHP has now attached a set of conditions to its latest offer to postpone its plan to build the temple at Ayodhya.

It says it wants the government to handover a piece of land next to the disputed area so that it could go-ahead with its temple construction plans, the mediator says.

The BBC's Satish Jacob in Delhi
"A curfew continues to be imposed"
Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi
"The police have done excellent work"
Prof Abid Shamsi, Movement for Secular Democracy
"After six days of rioting, peace seems to be prevailing"
See also:

05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Hindu hardliners 'agree compromise'
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Why is Gujarat so violent?
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