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India: 4 More Die in Hindu-Muslim Violence - 2002-03-19

Reports from western India say four people have died in continuing violence between Hindus and Muslims. A leading Islamic cleric is calling for India's government to control militant Hindu groups.

Police reinforcements are being sent to the towns of Modasa and Bharuch in the western Gujarat state.

In Modasa, about 100 kilometers north of Gujarat's biggest city Ahmedabad, police fired on a crowd attacking a group of Muslim students waiting at a bus stop.

In Bharuch, about 150 kilometers south of Ahmedabad, police fired on Hindu mobs attacking Muslim neighborhoods. Casualties are reported in both incidents.

In New Delhi India's senior Islamic cleric, Syed Ahmed Bukhari called for India's government to crack down on Hindu hardliners being blamed for the attacks against Muslims.

The cleric also denounced a statement from one of the groups, known as the RSS, which says the attacks against Muslims are in response to a Muslim assault on Hindus nearly three weeks ago.

More than 700 people have died during the past three weeks and there are fears violence could continue and escalate.

Behind the violence is a dispute over whether Hindu hardliners will be allowed to build a temple on disputed land in the northern city of Ayodhya.

The hardliners say they want to build a temple next to a mosque destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992. India's supreme court has banned all religious activity at the site.

India's government, dominated by Hindu nationalists, says it will obey the courts and not allow any construction to take place at the site.