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20 Die in Sectarian Rioting in India's Gujarat State - 2002-02-28


Indian authorities say at least 20 people have been killed in rioting in the western state of Gujarat. The violence erupted after 58 people - mostly Hindu activists - were killed in a train set on fire by a Muslim mob.

Riots broke out across the state as angry Hindu youths stones mosques and burned Muslim-owned shops. There were also reports of stabbings and shooting.

The worst disturbances were reported in Ahmedabad - the state's commercial hub, where police resorted to firing in the air to disperse thousand of rioters. Parts of the city have been placed under a strict curfew.

Hindu youths were also forcing people to observe a strike they called to protest Wednesday's attack on a train carrying Hindu activists. The attack occurred in the town of Godhra, about 150-kilometers from Ahmedabad.

The activists were returning from a rally in the northern town of Ayodhya, where Hindu nationalists want to build a temple on the ruins of a mosque destroyed by Hindu fanatics in 1992.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee urged Hindus not to retaliate - saying "Indian brotherhood must be protected at all cost." He also urged Hindu groups not to press ahead with their demand for the construction of a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

However, the main Hindu group spearheading the temple drive (Vishwa Hindu Parisad or World Hindu Council) has vowed to begin construction on March 15th, defying a court order that bans any construction at the site.

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