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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Gujarat Muslim women 'rape victims'
Rioters in Ahmedabad
Hindu rioters singled out Muslim shops and businesses
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By Jyotsna Singh
BBC correspondent in Delhi
line

Muslim women were subjected to "unimaginable inhuman and barbaric" sexual violence during recent communal riots in the west Indian state of Gujarat, according to a woman's panel that has visited the state.

Many women suffered the worst forms of sexual violence, including gang-rape, says their report, "How has the Gujarat massacre affected minority women. The survivors speak", released on Tuesday.

The violence began when 58 passengers were killed when a train carrying Hindu activists was torched on 27 February. It led to one of the worst bouts of Hindu-Muslim violence in the state.

The official death toll in last month's riots has now risen to 778, although welfare groups put the figure at about 2000.

'Complicity'

Most of the rape victims were burnt alive, Tuesday's report says.

Homeless Muslim woman
Many Muslim women were also left homeless

The head of the team, Syeda Hameed, told a Delhi press conference that the impact of such violence on women has been physical, economic and psychological.

The team - one of the first to visit Gujarat in the aftermath of the riots - says it found evidence of police complicity in perpetrating crime against women.

They allege that the police refused to file complaints by the victims.

The team also demanded the announcement of a special compensation package.

The panel also demanded that a special tribunal be set up to ensure justice for victims.

The report also said there was no evidence of any support from the state authorities in Gujarat to help women who had suffered attack.

Special guards

In parliament on Tuesday, junior Home Minister ID Swamy said the Gujarat Government had taken a pro-active role in supporting relief camps run by non-government organisations and that essential commodities were being supplied.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Government announced special security measures to ensure protection to nearly 200,000 students who will be taking exams from Thursday.

Gujarat's Education Minister Anandi Patel says special buses guarded by the police will be made available to help students travel in six riot-affected districts where exams have been postponed.

Sporadic violence in Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, has continued with another death in police firing during clashes between Hindus and Muslims late on Monday night.

At least 11 areas of Ahmedabad district are still under curfew.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Escaping the mobs
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
Violence flares in western India
27 Feb 02 | South Asia
Scores killed in India train attack
26 Feb 02 | South Asia
Vajpayee firm on Ayodhya
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