Indian Train Torched, At Least 57 Dead
A large crowd surrounded the train shortly after it left the station in Godhra at 6:30am, a town about 450 miles southwest of New Delhi.
There are conflicting reports on the origin of the dispute; some claim passengers on the train chanted pro-Hindu slogans, while others say it stemmed from an argument on the platform about fares.
The mob threw stones and kerosene at the train before lighting it on fire. Four coaches, which had been detached from the rest of the train, were gutted. Officials say 15 children, 25 women, and 17 men burned to death, and at least 43 people were injured.
The train, carrying 2,500 Hindu nationalists, was had left a disputed religious land in the northern town of Ayodhya. A right-wing Hindu group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), wants to build a temple on the ruins of a 16th century Babri mosque, which was destroyed by Hindu nationalists in 1992. The mosque’s destruction sparked nationwide riots that left more than 3,000 dead.
In what appeared to be separate retaliatory attacks, two men were stabbed to death in the same region. Local police asked the government for reinforcements, and imposed a curfew after shops and buses were set ablaze in Gujarat’s main city, Ahmedabad.
Officials, fearing religious strife could spread, have repeatedly appealed for calm.
“The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has embarked on a course of action in Ayodhya which is fraught with dangerous consequences,” Interior Minister Lal Krishna Advani said in a statement. “The developments in Ayodhya can thus precipitate a serious law and order problem.”
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee canceled a diplomatic trip to Australia.
Twelve percent of India’s population is Muslim.