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Indian Army Deployed in Gujarat


The Indian government and opposition parties have appealed for calm as scattered incidents of sectarian violence were reported in the western state of Gujarat and two other states. New Delhi has deployed the army in Gujarat to help quell India's worst sectarian violence in a decade. More than 200 people have died in three days of Hindu and Muslim rampage.

Police have shoot-on-sight orders, but street violence is spreading. Four people were killed in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The army staged marches through the streets of Ahmedabad, the scene of the worst rioting that has gripped Gujarat. But tensions remained high, and sporadic violence continued on Friday.

Gangs of Hindus and Muslims blockaded roads, threw stones and burning tires, and fought each other. In the worst incident, 50 Muslims were burnt to death in a shantytown after a Hindu mob set their huts on fire. Several rioters were killed in police firing.

The violence continued despite curfews being imposed across cities and towns in the state and the detention of hundreds of people.

Rioting erupted in Gujarat after a mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu devotees on Wednesday, burning 58 people to death. The attack prompted Hindus to go on a rampage to avenge the loss.

The army was called in after the rioting flared, and the police came under heavy criticism for not controlling the rioting mobs.

Ahmedabad's Police Chief P.C. Pandey says soldiers are moving into areas where Hindus and Muslims live in close proximity. "We would like to deploy them basically in areas where we have mixed populations, where people are apprehensive of attacks on them or by them," he said.

The army is also being deployed in several other towns in Gujarat. India's Defense Minister George Fernandes was greeted by groups of angry people demanding better security as he toured Ahmedabad and appealed for calm. "There is a curfew," he said. "Everybody should stay indoors and create a situation of peace so that normal life can be resumed in the city."

The federal government has come under heavy fire from opposition parties for allowing the situation to get out of hand. Angry lawmakers forced parliament to adjourn, and demanded more effective action from the government to halt the violence in the state.

Meanwhile a call for a nationwide strike by the Hindu nationalist World Hindu Council resulted in sporadic violence in some cities. In the country's financial capital, Bombay, most people stayed away from work, as Hindu activists halted trains and threw stones.

The Hindu nationalist group has offered to delay its plans to build a controversial temple in Uttar Pradesh state on the ruins of a mosque in a bid to cool tempers between Hindus and Muslims. The plan has angered many Muslims, and is believed to have sparked this week's violence in Gujarat.

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