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6 Die in Gujarat Violence


In India's western state of Gujarat, six people have been killed in fresh sectarian violence. The violence comes a day before the Indian prime minister visits the state, where sporadic rioting continues more than a month after it witnessed India's worst communal violence in a decade.

Police say five members of a Muslim family were burned to death when several homes were set on fire by a rampaging mob in Abasana village, 80 kilometers south of Ahmedabad, one of Gujarat's largest cities. The victims included two women and a child. Several people have been injured.

In another village, Umbhrat, a man was shot to death by police trying to control clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

The violence was not confined to villages. In Ahmedabad city, police opened fire to disperse Hindu and Muslim mobs fighting pitched battles in the night.

The latest violence is one of the worst incidents to be reported from Gujarat since riots erupted in late February after Muslims killed 58 Hindu activists, prompting revenge attacks by Hindu mobs.

Since then, communal tensions have been simmering, and sporadic violence has continued. The death toll in the rioting is more than 800.

There is mounting concern that religious tensions are spreading to new areas in the state. In recent days, Hindu-Muslim clashes have been reported from villages and districts which had not been affected by violence earlier.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visits Gujarat Thursday to review efforts to control the rioting. He will also look at rehabilitation measures for thousands of Muslims who took shelter in relief camps after their homes were destroyed.

His visit comes amid mounting demands by opposition parties and Muslim groups for the resignation of Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi belongs to Prime Minister Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.

Mr. Modi has been severely criticized for failing to control the violence, and for not providing adequate relief and rehabilitation to muslims. He has denied the charges, saying his government is doing all it can to ease tensions.