Bombay troops on alert after 215 die

THOUSANDS OF Muslim families besieged Bombay's railway stations yesterday, trying to escape the frenzy of religious violence which over the past week has left parts of the city in flames and 158 dead - bringing the death toll in western India to 215.

The Defence Minister, Sharad Pawar, rushed more than 2,500 troops to Bombay to help the security forces restore calm. Curfew blanketed the city, and both police and army now have orders to shoot on sight.

Mr Pawar said the security forces were instructed to take 'ruthless action' against rioters. Justifying the use of troops for civil unrest, Mr Pawar, a Bombay resident, said: 'Enough is enough. I cannot stand by and watch Bombay burn down.'

Religious strife also continued in the Gujarat city of Ahmedabad, 200 miles north of Bombay, where more than 40 people were killed over the past week.

The army fired on rioters yesterday in both Bombay and Ahmedabad and the England cricket team was forced by the prolonged rioting in Ahmedabad to cancel its game there yesterday.

Bombay is normally India's most bustling city, teeming with cars, rickshaws and more than 10 million people, but yesterday only army vehicles were moving through streets showered with broken glass and heaps of burnt clothing dragged out of the shops by arsonists.

Security forces opened fire on looters in the eastern and western suburbs, but after the troop-carriers rumbled by, mobs of looters emerged to strike again.

The violence began with clashes between Hindus and Muslims living in Bombay's festering slums. But now, according to police, religion has become a camouflage for greed. The rioting has turned to looting and arson organised by armed criminal gangs.

To defuse religious tension, the beleaguered Congress government of P V Narasimha Rao ordered the release of six leaders of the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition group. Hindu nationalists are planning to defy a ban on large public gatherings by holding a 'victory parade' in Delhi to celebrate the release of the BJP's leaders. But should Mr Rao arrest them again it might add to the country's political and religious upheavals.

Mr Pawar has admitted that the Congress government's credibility had been sorely damaged by its failure to prevent the wrecking of the northern town of Ayodhya on 6 December and the violence which swept through India in its wake.

Lal Krishna Advani and other Hindu nationalist leaders were arrested after organising a march of 200,000 Hindu zealots to Ayodhya which ended with the destruction of a disputed Muslim shrine. Bombay and Ahmedabad never recovered from that secretarian violence, and a spark was all that was needed to re-ignite the killings between Muslims and Hindus.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border