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Sikh protesters burn pictures of Indira Gandhi

By PAUL WEDEL

NEW DELHI, India -- Thousands of Sikh protesters burned the Indian flag and pictures of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the capital Sunday while her son predicted the religious 'terrorism' in Punjab state would last for months.

The Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar was quiet Sunday for the first time in a week of clashes between troops and militant Sikhs inside the shrine who are waging a bloody campaign for autonomy in Punjab, a government spokesman said.

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Authorities Sunday relaxed a 24-hour-curfew in the city of Amritsar, 250 miles north of New Delhi, and in 11 other areas of Punjab.

Security forces arrested an undetermined number of suspected Sikh militants and searched for arms caches but the sniping that has plagued government forces at the Golden Temple -- the Sikh's holiest shrine - halted Sunday, he said.

Sikh extremists have killed 330 people in the last three months in their campaign for autonomy in Punjab, home to the majority of India's 12 million Sikhs. They also are demanding the government recognize Sikhism, which embraces elements from Islam and Hinduism, as a separate religion.

In New Delhi, Sikh protesters burned the Indian flag and pictures of Mrs. Gandhi, whose government permitted troops last Wednesday to storm the Golden Temple. The battle between troops and Sikhs left more than 450 people dead.

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About 3,000 Sikhs smashed a police shelter and hurled the debris into the street outside Gurdwara Bangla Sahib -- the main Sikh temple in the capital.

Sikh leaders, however, calmed the crowd and sent a letter to Indian President Zial Singh -- who is a Sikh -- uring him and other Sikh officials to resign.

The letter said the military occupation of the Golden Temple an act of 'cruelty and barbarity.'

In New Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi, son of the prime minister and General Secretary of the ruling Congress Party, predicted in an interview published Sunday that the violence will continue.

'There will be terrorist activity and unrest for the next two to three months,' he said.

Gandhi charged that the Sikhs had received outside help, saying sophisticated weapons found by Indian troops in the Golden Temple could only have been supplied by a foreign government.

An Indian army general had said Saturday that some of the weapons had Chinese and Pakistani markings and that at least two men killed in fighting with the Sikhs had carried Pakistani identification.

In Islamabad, the Pakistani government Sunday denied it was suporting the militant Sikhs. A spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said the allegations were 'totally speculative and irresponsible.'

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There was no comment from China on the allegations.

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