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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Minister quits over Gujarat
Soldiers patrolling in Ahmedabad
Sporadic violence has continued in Gujarat
A member of the Indian Government has resigned in protest over the continuing religious violence in Gujarat state.

Ram Vilas Paswan
Ram Vilas Paswan: His party has four MPs
Coal and Mines Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has quit over the government's failure to contain the violence, according to his party.

"We have been shamed by the incidents in Gujarat", Mr Paswan told the BBC.

"We have been mute spectators for too long", he said.

Mr Paswan said it would be a sad development if the censure motion is not passed.

The Indian Government led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been criticised over Gujarat and faces a censure motion in parliament on Tuesday.

More than 800 people have died in clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat since late February.

Gujarat vote

Mr Paswan's resignation comes ahead of a key parliamentary debate on Gujarat, expected to severely criticise the government's handling of the crisis.


Our government cannot be derailed. It is stable

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
His Lok Jan Shakti party has four parliamentary seats and is one of more than 20 parties making up the federal coalition.

The opposition has been demanding the replacement of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for failing to check the violence.

Voting line-up

Tuesday's parliamentary debate is not expected to unseat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government - but could embarrass it.

Gujarat peace rally
A plea for Hindu-Muslim amity

A meeting of the BJP's allies on Monday ended with a pledge to support the government in the vote.

But at least three groups, the Trinamul Congress, the Janata Dal (United) and the National Conference, are still undecided about which way to vote.

Andt the regional Telugu Desam Party, which is outside the government, has not yet decided its stand.

The Telugu Desam is crucial as it is the largest party backing the BJP, but it has been very critical of the Gujarat violence.

But the BJP received a boost on Monday with another regional party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, saying it would back the government.

The BSP has 13 MPs and is poised to form a government in the politically influential state of Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the BJP.

For his part, Mr Vajpayee is confident of surviving the debate.

"Our government cannot be derailed. It is stable," he told a meeting of India's leading industrialists on Sunday.

Continuing violence

On Sunday, hundreds of people took part in a peace rally in Ahmedabad, among them Defence Minister George Fernandes and Narendra Modi, to plead for unity between Hindus and Muslims.

Mr Fernandes, who was representing the federal government, called on people to rid themselves of "all sorts of misunderstandings and feelings of anger and revenge".

But hours after the rally, violent clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims.

Two people were shot dead by police in a suburb of Ahmedabad after clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

In another incident, two people were killed and five others injured when a mob hurled crude bombs at another group in Ahmedabad.

Sporadic violence has continued in Gujarat since February when Hindus targeted Muslims in widespread rioting.

It followed an attack by Muslims on Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya, where hardliners want to build a Hindu temple on the ruins of a demolished mosque.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Satish Jacobs
"Two people were killed when police opened fire on the mobs"
Mahesh Bhatt, Bollywood film-maker
"It's a family quarrel which the people of India need to resolve. We don't want the world to interfere"
The BBC's Jill McGivering in Ahmedabad
"People can cope with conditions...but their biggest concern is the psychological stress"
See also:

25 Apr 02 | South Asia
UK report censures Gujarat rulers
23 Apr 02 | South Asia
Gujarat vote in Indian parliament
12 Apr 02 | South Asia
Analysis: BJP's Gujarat tactics
16 Apr 02 | South Asia
Gujarat Muslim women 'rape victims'
15 Mar 02 | South Asia
India's secularism under threat?
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