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Page last updated at 05:49 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 06:49 UK

Religious clashes erupt in India

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Sagar Island map

At least 40 people have been injured in religious clashes on a remote delta island in India's eastern state of West Bengal, police say.

Fifteen of those injured in the clashes on Sagar island, at the confluence of the Ganges and the sea, were policemen.

Supporters of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) and local Muslim villagers clashed after the RSS set up a camp in the area.

This caused unease amongst Muslims, who have a large population on the island.

The RSS is active throughout India and is the ideological fountainhead of India's main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Hindu group is trying to expand its organisation in West Bengal, particularly in the Muslim-dominated border districts, where they say illegal migrants from Bangladesh are slowly becoming a majority.

Wave of unrest

Mohsin Ali, a local resident, said that supporters of the RSS had raised "provocative slogans" in the area.

The RSS however blamed Bengal's ruling Marxists for instigating the attacks.

RSS leader Bijoy Addya told the BBC that the Marxists provoked the local Muslims into attacking the RSS supporters.

"We had conducted the training camp peacefully. But from the very beginning, we sensed a conspiracy to attack us and that finally happened," Mr Addya said.

But Marxist leader and state minister Kanti Ganguly denied the RSS charge.

"The RSS is a provocative organisation and if they raise slogans against a community, some reaction is bound to happen. There were clashes and now they have been controlled," Mr Ganguly said.

West Bengal has seen frequent violence and shutdowns recently.

On Thursday, more than 30 people were injured and the army had to be called out to control clashes between Bengali and Nepali residents around the town of Siliguri.




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