Mon, Mar 04, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Riots in India bring death toll to 500

REUTERS , AHMEDABAD, INDIA

Indian troops and police had brought most of Gujarat state under control yesterday after nearly 500 people died in the nation's worst Hindu-Muslim bloodshed in a decade.

"The situation has become normal in most parts of Gujarat. No major incidents have been reported so far on Sunday," senior state official Ashok Narayan said.

But he said tension was still high in some rural parts of the troubled state and there had been "sporadic incidents."

Overnight, a mob burned four people alive in Palampur town and police shot dead one of the attackers as they tried to disperse them.

Narayan said 485 people had died across Gujarat since Wednesday, including 58 Hindus burned alive when a suspected Muslim mob torched a train, triggering the wave of revenge killings.

Thousands of troops are patrolling the main city, Ahmedabad, and some other hotspots, but have yet to reach remote villages.

Telling horrific tales, victims urged the government to act.

"Both Hindus and Muslims have gone mad -- otherwise how could people kill each other," Thodaji Nagai Prajapati, a 46-year-old driver covered in burns and bandages, said from his hospital bed yesterday.

Baker Moin-uddin Sheikh, 31, watched his family die in an attack on Friday in which 65 Muslims were burned alive.

"I saw my father, sister and mother being burned alive. Despite pleas for help, nobody came to our rescue," he said. "Will someone take action against them for being responsible for my family's brutal killing?"

Lal Krishna Advani, the minister in charge of internal security, visited victims in hospital in Ahmedabad. "The government will do everything to ensure peace in Gujarat," he said.

The killings have so far been confined to Gujarat, but state governments across the secular, but mainly Hindu nation mobilized tens of thousands of security personnel after the train attack.

Many of the dead were burned alive when mobs attacked Muslim homes and shops. Police also shot dead 80 as they tried to assert control.

India's leading Hindu radical group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), appealed for peace and another Hindu group was due to announce if it would delay plans to build a controversial temple that has also fuelled tensions.

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