Hindus riot in retaliation for deadly train attack
AHMEDABAD, India (CNN) -- Hindu rioters attacked Muslims in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on Thursday in retaliation for a Wednesday attack on a train that killed dozens of Hindus.
A wave of arson and rioting Wednesday and Thursday left at least 46 people dead, including a dozen children, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Authorities imposed a curfew in 26 towns, including parts of Ahmedabad, according to Gujarat's home secretary, K. Nityanandan.
Sixteen of the deaths occurred in a single incident in which Muslim homes were torched in Ahmedabad, police said. Two more people died when police fired on a mob in an attempt to disperse it.
The rioting followed Wednesday's firebombing of a train carrying Hindu activists in Gujarat. Police said 58 people died when a large group of people, believed to be Muslims, set fire to the train near the city of Godhra. The dead included at least 14 children.
The activists are demanding the Indian government build a Hindu temple on the ruins of a mosque destroyed by Hindus nearly a decade ago in the central Indian town of Ayodhya. Muslims want the mosque rebuilt.
Nearly 70,000 police are in Gujarat in an attempt to control the situation after Wednesday's train attack. Police are investigating whether the rioters, who torched a restaurant and hotel, were responsible for a fire at a government building in Ahmedabad, Nityanandan said.
The state government has appealed to New Delhi to send in the army to restore order. Defense Minister George Fernandes is scheduled to arrive in Ahmedabad on Friday, the day the World Council, a right-wing Hindu group, has set for a general strike.
Muslims make up more than 10 percent of India's 1 billion people.
Earlier Wednesday, the Hindu activists returning from the site where the train was attacked shouted slogans in favor of building the temple, authorities said, and got into an altercation with a group of Muslims. India's government ordered a high-level inquiry into the matter.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee canceled a trip to Australia to monitor the situation from New Delhi. After Wednesday's train attack, Vajpayee appealed to Hindu activists to call off their campaign, saying, "The country's unity and the spiritual brotherhood should be maintained at all costs."
Indian officials fear sectarian violence could spread throughout the country, repeating the Hindu-Muslim fighting that killed nearly a million people around the time the nation was created by decree of the British parliament.
The Indian government has warned it will take "stern action" against anyone defying court orders, banning any activity on the disputed site in Ayodhya.
The activists want the government to begin building the Hindu temple on the site by March.
The mosque was destroyed by Hindu mobs in 1992. The act sparked nationwide riots and has been blamed for thousands of deaths.
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