Friday, March 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

79 die in communal flare-up, Army on standby

A rioter hits a burning rickshaw
A rioter hits a burning rickshaw with a stick in Ahmedabad, Gujarat,
on Thursday. 

Ahmedabad, February 28
More than 79 persons were killed, 38 of them burnt alive, and scores injured today in the worst communal flare-up in Gujarat in recent times. The Army was called after rampaging mobs attacked and burnt homes, shops, buildings and buses in retaliation against yesterday’s killing of 58 persons in a train in Godara.

Twenty-six places, including Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bharuch and Rajkot, were put under indefinite curfew as violence spread during the daylong bandh called by the VHP.

Over 50 persons lost their lives in the city. In a gruesome incident, 38 persons including 19 members of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri, were burnt alive in their homes in Meghanagar suburb. Jaffri and some children were among those in the family killed.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee conferred with his colleagues in New Delhi and decided that the Army would be on standby in Gujarat.

The police complained they were outnumbered and the rampaging mobs had set up road blocks hindering their movement. Chief Minister Narendra Modi told a crowded press conference here 700 arrests had been made throughout the state, including 80 in Godhra, where the train was set ablaze killing 58 persons.

A rioter walks away with goods
A rioter walks away with goods looted from a burning shop in Ahmedabad on Thursday. 

As the state observed a VHP-sponsored bandh to protest yesterday’s attack on the train, reports of violence also poured in from Palanpur, Himmatnagar, Lunawada, Deesa, Bhildi, Patan, Khera, Vishnagar and Godhra, which were among the places under indefinite curfew.

A report from New Delhi said Home Minister L.K. Advani today directed despatch of about 1,000 personnel of paramilitary forces to the trouble-hit Gujarat following a request by Chief Minister Modi. “Eleven companies of paramilitary forces have been despatched to Gujarat and they will be reaching there by tonight,” a Home Ministry official said.

Mr Modi had telephoned Mr Advani to apprise him of the situation in Gujarat in the wake of yesterday’s attack on Sabarmati Express and requested for additional paramilitary forces to deal with law and order.

The Centre today issued a fresh direction to the state governments and Union Territories to deploy security forces in sensitive areas while arranging logistics for implementation of contingency plans.

Local residents surround bodies covered in traditional garments
Local residents surround bodies covered in traditional garments during a funeral procession in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on Thursday.
The death toll from an attack on a train carrying "kar sevaks" rose to 58 after all bodies were counted, a senior local official said on Thursday. 

A woman weeps
A woman weeps while searching for the body of her father-in-law at a morgue in a hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on Thursday. 
— Reuters photo

Union Home Secretary Kamal Pande himself maintained a close watch on the situation in Gujarat and Ayodhya and also held extensive discussions with other senior officials with regard to the emergency deployment of security forces, if needed.

The Centre has already asked the Uttar Pradesh Government to prevent kar sewaks from congregating near the disputed site in Ayodhya. Besides, the state administration has been asked to stall any movement of stone pillars and other construction material to Ayodhya from nearby Karsevakpuram, which was put under tight surveillance.

In a related development, the BJP has asked its cadres not to proceed to Ayodhya to participate in the VHP-sponsored Ram Temple construction movement.

Meanwhile, a report from Godhra said sporadic incidents of violence were reported from the town which remained under curfew and other parts of Panchmahal district, even as the police nabbed 66 persons, including two municipal councillors, in connection with yesterday’s train-burning incident.

Unruly mobs set fire to shops and motor garages in Godhra, Lunawara, Limkheda, Kalol, Vaijapur and other areas. Miscreants also set ablaze some vehicles on the Baroda-Godhra highway.

The police opened fire in Kalol town to disperse unruly mobs.

Meanwhile, the police has arrested 66 persons, including two municipal councillors, in connection with yesterday’s incident in which at least 58 persons, including 25 women and 15 children, were killed and 43 others injured when a mob set on fire four coaches of Sabarmati Express carrying “Ramsevaks” from Ayodhya. PTI


Communal amity at all costs: Advani
Says inquiry on Godhra trouble ordered
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
Union Home Minister Lal Krishan Advani today assured that the Centre would maintain communal peace and harmony and informed the Lok Sabha that the Gujarat Government had ordered a judicial inquiry by a retired High Court judge into the “horrendous” incident in which 55 persons were killed when two coaches of Sabarmati Express were torched at Godhra yesterday.

While promising a detailed statement tomorrow, Mr Advani said 40 persons had been arrested so far in this connection and the Centre and the state government were making efforts to nab the culprits.

In a brief statement made amidst noisy interruptions, the Home Minister said the Centre was in constant touch with the Gujarat Government and was trying to ascertain whether there was any other angle to yesterday’s attack on Ram Sevaks.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi asked the government to make a statement on the situation in Gujarat as she had reports that the situation was going out of control there.

Describing the matter as “very serious”, Mr Advani said since he felt the incident could have a fallout elsewhere, he took prompt action to ensure that communal harmony and peace was maintained everywhere.

The Gujarat Government had already ordered a judicial inquiry by a retired High Court judge, Mr Advani said, promising stringent action against all those responsible for the killing of 56 persons, including 25 women and 14 children.


Ayodhya borders sealed
Curbs on activities of ‘kar sevaks’

A securityman positioned at an approach road leading to the disputed site in Ayodhya
A securityman positioned at an approach road leading to the disputed site in Ayodhya on Thursday. Security has been intensified in the city following the Gujarat developments. — PTI photo

Faizabad, February 28
Nearly 7,000 security persons were deployed in and around the temple town of Ayodhya and its borders sealed as the authorities today vowed to prevent ‘kar sevaks’ from carrying carved pillars to the disputed site for the construction of the proposed Ram temple.

No vehicle was allowed into Faizabad and Ayodhya from adjoining areas, including Barabanki, Ambedkarnagar and Sultanpur districts, the Commissioner Faizabad Division, Dr A.K. Gupta, told reporters here.

Patrolling was intensified in the entire area following the attack on Sabarmati Express carrying mostly ‘Ram sevaks’ in Gujarat.

“There are clear orders from the government not to allow carved stones to be taken out from the workshops in Ayodhya and Supreme Court’s orders of status quo in Ayodhya will be maintained,” Additional Director-General Police (Law and Order) A.K. Mitra, said.

Mr Gupta said the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad were divided into 30 sectors and three zones. Magistrates and CRPF had been posted in all sensitive areas. The Magistrates were directed to ensure that no crowd would assemble around the Ram Janmabhumi complex and the acquired land in Ayodhya.

They had also been directed to maintain peace and communal harmony and that no sections of the society should feel any sense of insecurity, he added.

No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in Ayodhya and Faizabad, Mr Gupta said.

Mr Mitra said no ‘kar sevaks’ would be allowed to stay in Ayodhya. “Those already there will be asked to leave immediately as prohibitory orders are already in force in Faizabad and Ayodhya. Paramilitary forces will be deployed to deal with unruly crowds.”

The police chiefs of adjoining districts were directed to ensure that mischievous elements were not allowed to congregate in large numbers.

Mr Gupta said all long distance trains would soon be diverted to alternative routes to avoid them coming to Ayodhya. Kar sewaks would be provided short-distance trains to leave from Ayodhya to their respective places, he added.

Earlier, Mr Gupta, accompanied by Mr Mitra and other officials visited Ayodhya and the acquired land to supervise security measures there.

However, ‘Sri Ram Yagya’ continued in Ayodhya and life in the twin cities continued to be normal. PTIBack

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