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Religious Clashes in Western India Claim at Least 300 Lives

BY Admin  March 1, 2002 at 1:30 AM EDT

In the latest spate of violence, Hindu attackers set fire to Muslim homes in Pandarvada, a small village in Gujarat, killing at least 30 Muslims.

The clashes push the death toll to 300, which makes the recent days’ bloodshed the worst in India for a decade.

The third day of violence, police said, entered a “new phase” in which gangs of Muslims and Hindus, armed with stones and knives, battled each other throughout Gujarat.

Nearly 900 soldiers have been sent to combat rioters in Ahmadabad, Gujarat’s main city. They have arrested around 1,200 rioters.

The religious violence ignited Wednesday when a group of Muslims set fire to a train carrying mostly Hindu nationalists, killing at least 58 people. The arson attack occurred in Godhra, a town about 30 miles from the scene of today’s violence. The victims of Wednesday’s attack had been traveling from the holy site of Ayodhya, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Mobs of Hindu rioters sought revenge Thursday, targeting Muslim-owned homes and businesses. At least 65 Muslims were burned to death while asleep in their homes. The killings took place in a predominantly Muslim residential section of Ahmadabad.

Officials said today they feared violent retaliation for Wednesday’s train attack could spread to other states across India.

Some of Bombay’s commercial areas shut down today in response to the World Hindu Council’s call for a protest strike against the attack.

In a separate incident, two Muslims in Uttar Pradesh were killed in riots. And in Rajasthan, the state bordering Gujarat, police opened fire on a rioting crowd, killing a Hindu boy.