Killing continues during Gujarat vote
AHMEDABAD, India -- India's Hindu nationalist-led government was bracing itself for a pummelling by the opposition Tuesday, as it faced a censure motion over its handling of the country's bloodiest religious violence in a decade.
But as parliament sat to decide whether to censure the government, more sectarian fighting erupted in the volatile western state of Gujarat.
One man was shot dead by police and four others were wounded in Hindu-Muslim clashes early Tuesday.
"The clashes began after trouble-makers set fire to a plastic goods store. Police had to open fire at mobs throwing stones at each other," a police official told Reuters news agency. Two people were hurt when a crude bomb exploded in another part of Ahmedabad.
Although a censure would not topple the government, analysts say any failure by key BJP allies to support the government could signal the start of the fractious coalition unravelling.
But despite the resignation of a cabinet minister in protest at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition's failure to halt the violence, the government seemed to have mustered the numbers to win the vote later on Tuesday.
The key issue will be how many coalition members support the censure or abstain.
"It's a litmus test for the so-called secular allies of BJP in our view. Their vote must be where their mouth is," said Jaipal Reddy, spokesman for the main opposition party, Congress.
Losing the censure motion would also be a humiliation for the BJP, which has been stung recently by a series of regional election defeats.
The violence was sparked late February when a Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, killing 58.
The riots that followed in Gujarat have left nearly 900 people dead, however some international human rights groups have estimated the death toll is much higher.
Violence culminated last week when about 300 to 400 Muslims and Hindus took part in a battle that lasted well over an hour, with firebombs going off about every minute, according to a CNN crew that was there.
Hundreds of security forces responded, including army soldiers and members of the state's Federal Rapid Action Force. The police fired tear gas to try to bring calm and then fired warning shots into the air.
In several instances, both Hindu and Muslim rioters targeted police with firebombs.
"What has happened in Gujarat has shocked us all," opposition congressional member Kapil Sibal told CNN. "We don't want the situation to worsen and spread to other parts of the country."
Religious violence worsens in western India
April 26, 2002
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