India violence lessens deaths surpass 1,100

December 13, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW DELHI, India -- After a week of savage sectarian riotin in dozens of cities and towns set off by the demolition of a 16th-century mosque by Hindu militants a week ago, India struggled toward calm yesterday, with far fewer reports of deaths and injuries trickling into the capital.

Still, spasms of sectarian conflict erupted, raising the number of people killed in six days of Hindu and Muslim strife above 1,100. In Bombay, which was one of the cities hardest hit by the violence, police again opened fire on stone-throwing mobs, but yesterday there were no reports of deaths.

The week of bloodshed has stunned India and jolted international assessments of this country's ability to surmount entrenched sectarian animosities and escape the deep poverty that has made India a perennial foreign-aid recipient.

Foreign tourists are canceling trips to India in droves and some insurance companies have refused to insure visitors traveling to India.

In New York, Asia Watch issued a statement asking the Indian JTC government to examine the role of police in the rioting and whether they had joined Hindu mobs in attacks on Muslims in recent days. It is increasingly clear that Muslims have died in far greater number than Hindus in the rioting across the country.

Several cities and towns lifted curfews early yesterday morning, but some cities, including parts of Delhi and Bombay, remained tense. Yesterday, residents of the largely Muslim neighborhood of Seelampur district of Delhi began collecting the bodies of people who died Friday when Hindu mobs rampaged through the area.

Smoke still drifted from some buildings early yesterday morning and the streets were covered with broken glass and masonry, evidence of the firebombs thrown by Hindu rioters. Police and paramilitary troops patrolled the area and the streets were largely empty.

While the Indian government appeared to be doing little except watching and hoping the level of violence diminished -- a strategy endorsed by Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao at a news conference on Friday -- leftist opposition parties expressed alarm at the apparent targeting of Muslims by police during the rioting.

Former Prime Minister V. P. Singh, the leader of the left-leaning Janata Dal party, told Reuters that the vast majority of deaths in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh had been Muslims.

"Almost 80 to 90 percent of the killings across Uttar Pradesh have been of Muslims with police bullets," Mr. Singh said.

India's news agencies and newspapers exercise self-censorship and do not report the religion of those killed in the riots, so it has been difficult to fix precisely how many people of each religious community have died.

Last Sunday, phalanxes of militant Hindu youths stormed the mosque and reduced it to rubble.

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