Indian opposition slams govt. for riots


NEW DELHI, May 1 (UPI) -- Several allies of India's multi-party ruling coalition joined hands with the opposition Tuesday in condemning the government for religious riots in which more than 900 people were killed.

Although the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was Tuesday expected to win a vote on the clashes, an acrimonious debate in Parliament exposed chinks in the ruling coalition, known as the National Democratic Alliance.


India's junior Foreign Minister Omar Abdullah, who represents Muslim-dominated National Conference party in the ruling alliance, offered to quit government as his party decided to abstain from voting on the opposition-sponsored censure motion.

"Since my party is not voting for the government on this motion, I didn't want to embarrass the prime minister so I have offered to quit," Abdullah said.

Another coalition ally, the Telugu Desam party, also said it would oppose the government and demanded the firing of the chief minister of riot-hit Gujarat state. On Monday, federal minister Ram Vilas Paswan resigned for the same reason.

More than 900 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed in the two months of religious clashes. Opposition parties, independent observers and human rights organizations have accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of turning a blind eye toward the anti-Muslim violence. The unofficial toll is more than 2,000.


Modi, like Vajpayee, is from the BJP, and the prime minister has turned down his offers to resign.

Violence erupted Feb. 27 when a Muslim mob torched a train, killing 58 Hindu passengers. Since then Muslims have been slain in reprisal killings and attacks that have targeted Muslim homes and businesses.

Tuesday's parliament debate saw charges of "fascism" and "Nazism" hurled at Vajpayee's BJP and its Hindu right-wing allies.

Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi called the unending violence a "national calamity," and said the Gujarat government was abetting hatred and that Vajpayee was a "passive spectator" to the carnage.

She added: "The state government is not only guilty of not putting an end to violence but of deliberate connivance in it."

Vajpayee's governance showed "Hitler was their idol and not Mahatma Gandhi," Communist Party of India-Marxist lawmaker Somnath Chatterjee said.

Although the government was set to win the vote, the debate was a major setback.

Meanwhile, leading Muslim leaders Tuesday met with India's President K.R. Narayanan and demanded Modi be sacked and federal rule be imposed in the state. They also asked him to appoint a new commission of inquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge.

Hindus comprise 82 percent of India's more than 1 billion people. India is home to world's second-largest Muslim population after Indonesia.


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