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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 17:19 GMT
Protests over Gujarat arrest
The gutted wreckage of one of the train cars
The Hindu pilgrims were unable to excape the blaze
Shops in the town of Godhra in India's Gujarat state have closed in protest at the arrest of a Muslim in connection with a deadly train attack.

Maulana Hussain Umarji, a cleric, is suspected of planning the alleged arson attack, which took place in Godhra last February.

When people in Godhra town came to know about the arrest on Thursday morning there was tension

Rakesh Asthana
Railway police
Muslims were accused of starting the fire, in which 58 Hindu pilgrims died.

The deaths sparked India's worst communal riots in a decade, in which at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed across Gujarat.

Inspector Rakesh Asthana of India's railway police said the cleric had been arrested late on Wednesday night.

"When people in Godhra town came to know about the arrest on Thursday morning there was tension here but the situation is under control now," he said.

Some Hindus in Godhra also closed down their shops on Thursday, fearing violence.

Hindu fears

Police said Mr Umarji was arrested after another accused, Zabir Behra, told a magistrate in Godhra the cleric had met a group of Muslims the night before the train blaze.

Charred bodies recovered from the train
Dozens of people died in the attack last year
Mr Behra claimed he was present at the meeting, which he said was held to plot the 27 February attack.

He said that the cleric promised to pay the men for carrying out the attack and told them to swear on the Koran.

Mr Behra also said fuel was stored in a hotel owned by Razzak Kurkur, one of the main accused in the arson attack.

Maulana Umarji met Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and opposition Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi during their visits to Gujarat last year and complained of police harassment of Muslims.

Police have not yet formally charged Mr Umarji, who is due to be produced in court by Friday.

Gujarat conflict in-depth

Key vote

Tense state

Background

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03 Jul 02 | South Asia
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