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Violence Continues in Gujarat as Minister Refuses to Quit - 2002-04-22

In India's western Gujarat state, at least 17 people have been killed and scores injured in sectarian clashes. The latest violence has intensified a political deadlock in the Indian capital, as a key government ally and opposition parties press for the resignation of Gujarat's chief minister.

Police used tear gas to disperse rioting Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat's Ahmadabad city Monday. Authorities said the rioters set shops and huts on fire.

The city was gripped by a renewed wave of violence on Sunday, when Hindus and Muslims clashed, hurling crude bombs at each other. Several of the victims died when police opened fire to control the rioting. A policeman was among those killed. A curfew has been imposed, and army troops have been deployed to enforce peace.

The violence is the worst since early March when more than 700 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, after about 60 Hindus died, when the train they were traveling on was set on fire by Muslims in Godhra. Scores of people have been killed in recent weeks in sporadic incidents.

The latest violence in Gujarat has deepened a political row in India's Parliament. Opposition groups and even some allies of the Hindu nationalist-led federal government are calling for the resignation of Gujarat state's chief minister, Narendra Modi, for failing to control the sectarian clashes. Mr. Modi heads a government of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). His administration has been accused of not doing enough to protect Muslims.

But the BJP is standing by Mr. Modi, and has firmly rejected demands for his ouster. The party says he is doing everything he can to control the situation.

The BJP-led federal government is also coming under fire, and not just from the opposition. The Telugu Desam party is a key ally of the BJP-led coalition. It is among the parties expressing concern over the continuing violence in Gujarat. The party's spokesman, Yerran Naidu, reiterated calls Monday for restoration of order in the state.

"The need of the hour is to create harmony in Gujarat, to maintain law and order, to create normalcy, that is the aim and objective of the Telugu Desam party."

Opposition parties and several partners of the government say they want a debate in parliament on the events in Gujarat, followed by a vote. The government says it is willing to have a discussion, but is refusing to hold a vote.

Political analysts say the BJP is worried that if a vote is taken, some of its allies may not stand by the party.