Friday, December 07, 2007

Religions in conflict: India's state of war

It is five years since Gujarat erupted in violence between Hindus and Muslims. But next week's elections will be dominated by the fallout from the bloody events

By Andrew Buncombe in Ahmedabad | The Independent, December 7, 2007

It is called the Bombay Hotel but there is no service to speak of.

Indeed, the 8,000 or so Muslim families who live in this flyblown shantytown on the edge of the Gujarati city of Amhedabad make do without running water and regular electricity, never mind such luxuries as bathrooms and medical facilities.

With a widely watched election taking place in Gujarat next week, this shantytown is a crucial backdrop to the contest being played out in one of India's most restive states, between the ruling right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the centrist Congress Party, the party of Jawaharlal Nehru.

The people living in the Bombay Hotel area rushed there for safety in the aftermath of Gujurat's 2002 violence during which up to 2,000 people killed and thousands more wounded, most of them Muslims. The attacks were carried out by Hindus, partly in retaliation for an alleged arson attack on a train in which more than 50 Hindu pilgrims were killed. The killings, spread over three months, represent India's deadliest religious violence since Partition in 1947.

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