The riots took place in more than two dozen towns in Gujarat to protest yesterday’s Muslim attack on a train, in which 58 people, mostly Hindu nationalists, burned to death.
The worst rioting occurred in Ahmadabad, Guajarat’s major city. There nearly 2,000 rioters looted and set fire to nearly 50 Muslim-owned businesses and homes in the predominantly Hindu city.
In the residential Meghaninagar neighborhood, rioters poured kerosene on homes and ignited them, burning at least 38 Muslims, including 12 children, to death.
The police told the Associated Press they had already removed 18 bodies from the smoldering homes, and reported seeing at least eight adults and 12 children still inside.
Several witnesses reported that in parts of Ahmadabad, police watched the rioting, occasionally firing tear gas as an angry mob burned and pillaged Muslim-owned buildings.
According to police, Hindu rioters set up roadblocks in one of the neighborhoods that prevented them from getting to the scene for nearly two hours. It took another four hours for firefighters to arrive.
“This happened due to mob violence and our men could not reach there on time. This is not an excuse but it is an extremely unfortunate incident,” said Ahmadabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey.
Gujarat Chief Minister Modi earlier reported that 20 others were killed throughout the state in protests against Wednesday’s Muslim train attack.
Muslim-owned bungalows and vending stalls were reportedly set on fire and three Muslims were stabbed to death. Police shot another two Muslims who had reportedly opened fire on rioters in Nadiad and Godhra.
The nationalist World Hindu Council called a protest strike against the Muslim attack in Gujarat. The council plans to expand the strike nationwide Friday.
The Gujarat state government, led by the Hindu nationalist party of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, supported Thursday’s strike.
This latest violence in Gujarat increased the death toll to 116, including 58 Hindus who died in yesterday’s train attack.
Nearly 63 suspects, including two municipal councilors, have been arrested in connection to the train attack.