Violence Erupts in Gujarat

Publication Date: 
Mon, 2003-03-03 03:00

NEW DELHI, 3 March 2003 — At least one person was killed and several others were injured in violence that broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the western state of Gujarat following India’s triumph over Pakistan in their cricket World Cup match.

The Star News television channel gave the name of the victim of Saturday’s violence as Zubair, 18. It did not mention his community, but Zubair is a Muslim name.

Police said he was killed when the police fired at a mob which had been pelting them with stones in Ahmedabad city following India’s win over Pakistan in the World Cup tournament being held in South Africa. “He died in hospital, the wound was on his chest,” a senior police officer told Reuters.

The Asian Age newspaper said that incidents of stone throwing and arson were reported in some areas of Ahmedabad following the victory which led to India moving into the next round and forced Pakistan out of the tournament.

Tension spread in the Shahpur area after firecrackers were lit to celebrate the victory. A scooter and several signboards were torched and more than half a dozen people were injured in violence.

Officials said the police fired tear gas in a bid to control the rampaging crowds.

In Baroda, at least 10 people, including two policemen were injured in post-cricket violence. Police opened fire in predominantly Muslim areas of the city after revelers celebrating the Indian victory clashed with another group but no one was injured in the firing.

Police said a 2,000 strong mob set fire to at least four vehicles and two shops in Mugalwada. In another area of the city a victory procession was attacked by some people, leaving a policeman injured.

The violence soon spread to other areas as Hindus and Muslims fought pitched battles on the streets until late Saturday night.

Elite paramilitary troopers were posted in sensitive areas of the state following the violence.

Elsewhere, thousands poured into the streets early yesterday as Indians celebrated the victory over Pakistan. Streets that had looked deserted during the match changed within minutes as people came out to congratulate one another as the match ended.

Meanwhile, former US President Bill Clinton urged India not to polarize itself along religious lines if it wanted to be the “right kind” of world power.

Clinton, in a speech broadcast to a New Delhi conference late Saturday, said the Hindu-Muslim riots that left 2,000 dead last year in Gujarat were one of the saddest events since he left office in 2001.

He urged India to sort out its communal problems as it headed to becoming a “giant” on the world stage. “To identify and categorize people based on faith will keep India from becoming the right kind of giant in the 21st century,” Clinton said in remarks released by the conference’s host, India Today magazine.

Clinton, who is widely respected in India for his 2000 state visit, had helped raise funds for the victims of an earthquake in Gujarat that killed 20,000 people and left 250,000 homeless.

The former president said the quake, which came weeks after he left the White House, had showed him that Hindus and Muslims could work together in the state.

Riots broke out across Gujarat, the largest state ruled by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, after Muslim vendors in February 2002 torched a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 58.

Most of the victims of the subsequent bloodshed were Muslim, and the state administration was accused by human rights groups of turning a blind eye to the vigilante violence, or even overtly colluding with the perpetrators.

The Indian government was blasted over the riots by the opposition and human rights groups, but the United States and other major Western countries refrained from publicly criticizing the handling of the violence.

Clinton was originally scheduled to deliver the talk in person, but conference organizers said he was told not to leave the United States at this time for security reasons.

Clinton said Northern Ireland’s peace process could provide a model for Kashmir but that Indian and Pakistani leaders found a resolution of the dispute politically risky.

Clinton called Kashmir “the most dangerous place on earth” — repeating a remark that brought him a public rebuke during the 2000 visit.

But he said any deal on Kashmir, which has been divided for a half-century between Pakistan and India, would take tremendous political will.

“Politicians on both sides of the line have more to gain in the short run by keeping problems festering than making them go away,” said Clinton.

The former president said the Kashmir dispute “can be resolved somewhat along the lines the problem in Northern Ireland was sorted out.”

This meant “self-government” by the majority that ensures minority rights, he was quoted as saying.

Clinton repeated his assertion that “nuclear weapons cannot be the definition of national greatness,” citing the case of North Korea.

He also said that HIV and AIDS “is one of the things that can totally derail India’s march to prosperity.”

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