40 arrested after religious clashes in India’s Gujarat
AHMEDABAD, India: Police in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat have arrested 40 people after clashes between Hindus and Muslims and suspended mobile Internet and text messaging services, an official said Sunday.
The two groups pelted each other with stones and set vehicles alight on Saturday in the city of Vadodara following several days of tensions, police said.
Paramilitary forces have been deployed in response in Vadodara, which is 110 kilometers (68 miles) from the state’s main city of Ahmedabad, police said.
“Police have arrested over 40 people in connection with the communal riots in Vadodara,” said senior state government official S.K Nanda.
“The number is likely to increase as combing operations are still on,” Nanda, additional chief secretary for the home ministry, told AFP.
The ban on phone services would remain in place until September 30 in a bid to stop the clashes spreading and to defuse tensions, officials said.
Tensions have been mounting since Thursday after distorted photos of the Muslim holy land of Makkah were circulated on social media that Muslims found offensive, the Indian Express newspaper reported on Sunday.
Modi, who is currently in the United States and is set to meet with US President Barack Obama, won the seat of Vadodara at the national elections in May.
Modi, whose Hindu nationalist party swept to power with a landslide victory, later vacated Vadodara after winning both of the seats that he was allowed to contest.
Religious riots in Gujarat in 2002 between majority Hindus and minority Muslims left at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.
As chief minister of Gujarat at the time, Modi was heavily criticized for failing to stop the bloodshed. But he has always denied wrongdoing and was cleared by a Supreme Court-ordered investigation.
The US had shunned Modi for years over the riots, a move that was dropped when it became clear he would win power nationally.