'Halt bloodshed to prevent another Godhra' | india | Hindustan Times
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'Halt bloodshed to prevent another Godhra'

Vadodara has been under curfew since Monday when violence erupted after authorities demolished a dargah.

india Updated: May 04, 2006 16:06 IST

Gujarat must take action to stop Hindu-Muslim riots from worsening, a rights group warned on Thursday as troops patrolled a city where six people have already died.

Vadodara has been under curfew since Monday when violence erupted after authorities demolished a Mulsim shrine saying it was built on government land.

"The Gujarat government must be vigilant against extremist violence against helpless civilians," said Brad Adams, Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"Instead of allowing this violence to deepen religious hatred, the authorities should launch an immediate, thorough and transparent investigation to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted and punished," he said on Thursday.

The group said it was worried that there could be a repeat Gujarat's 2002 riots which left more than 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.

After a man was burnt alive in his car on Tuesday, the Indian government deployed 1,500 troops, a news agency reported.

Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi also promised on Wednesday to act swiftly against rioters as arson and looting continued.

"I warn rioters, whatever community they belong to ... the law will do its duty," he said.

Modi who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party was also Chief Minister in 2002 when top state officials were blamed by the opposition and rights groups for doing little to stop the violence.

Muslim residents in Vadodara began protesting on Monday, saying they had told municipal authorities before the demolition that they would relocate the shrine, which they say was hundreds of years old.

City authorities say about 1,200 Hindu and 260 Islamic shrines sit on public land.

Police shot and killed two rioters on Monday and two people were also stabbed to death. Another person died on Tuesday of injuries sustained in the clashes. About 100 people were also injured.

At least one Hindu was among the dead, the rights group said.

"During the night of May 2 avenging Hindu mobs, often led by members of fundamentalist Hindu groups ... surrounded and threatened Muslim neighbourhoods," Human Rights Watch said.

"The situation is still tense and Muslim residents are terrified, fearing a repeat of the 2002 state-backed riots," it added.

Those riots erupted after 53 Hindus were killed in a train fire initially blamed on Muslims, but found later to be an accident by an official inquiry.