AHMEDABAD, MARCH 1. The Army began flag marches in the worst-affected areas of Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot and Godhra cities and the `shoot at sight' order was extended to all 34 curfew-bound cities and towns in Gujarat as the orgy of violence in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage continued unabated for the second day today.
The toll in the violence has been officially put at 136, including 119 deaths being reported from Ahmedabad city alone of which at least 17 people were killed in police firing. But unconfirmed reports put the toll at over 200 with more bodies still being extricated from the minority housing colonies set ablaze in Meghaninagar and Naroda localities on Thursday.
Five persons were killed in police firing during fresh incidents of violence in the labour-dominated Bapunagar locality where at least five persons were burnt alive in a car in one of the gruesome incidents during the day. Eight persons were burnt alive in their car on the outskirts of Juhapura locality. A policeman was stabbed to death and his body set afire by a mob in Naroda locality.
The official sources admitted that the casualty in the Meghaninagar and Naroda burning incidents was much higher than originally estimated and so far over 105 bodies had been recovered from Gulmarg society in Meghaninagar and Naroda which alone accounted for at least 65 deaths. But hospital sources said at least 163 burnt bodies had been recovered from the two places in one of the worst-ever mass murder incidents in the history of the State since the 1969 riots.
The entire pandal of the Gujarat-Expo exhibition, where various State Governments and co-operative organisations had their stalls on the Gujarat University ground, was on fire. It, however, was not immediately clear whether the fire was accidental or was caused by some miscreants who looted the stalls.
The Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, however, claimed that the situation was ``improving'' and the intensity of violence was ``much less than what it was yesterday''. He was confident that the situation would be brought under control soon.
He claimed that despite the prevailing tension in the walled city and labour-dominated areas of Ahmedabad, the flag march had a ``salutary effect''. He said one Army brigade, airlifted from the border areas and which arrived early this morning, began flag march later in the day while another brigade was expected to arrive in the night. He said if the situation demanded, the Army would be deployed in the affected areas to help the civil authorities restore normalcy.
Though Gujarat was ``exempted'' from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's national bandh call for today, life remained paralysed in most parts of the State for the second day today because of the prevailing tension or due to the imposition of indefinite curfew. Even outside the curfew-bound areas in Ahmedabad, none of the shops, cabins and other business establishments were opened today. Banks, schools and colleges, cinema theatres and most other institutions remained closed while only a few private offices functioned with minimum staff.
Despite the imposition of indefinite curfew, sporadic incidents of violence, group clashes and stoning continued through out the night and during the day today in the walled city and labour-dominated eastern parts of Ahmedabad. But unlike Thursday when one community was entirely at the receiving end, the minority backlash caused further worsening of the situation.
Police presence had little impact on the two communities pelting stones at each other in Bapunagar, Gomtipur, Dariapur, Shahpur, Naroda and other areas from where incidents of firing had been reported. But there were no reports of casualty. Pitched battle was contin uing between the two communities late in the evening.
The official sources said timely arrival of the police foiled a retaliatory attempt to break into a prominent temple in Jamalpur locality in the walled city. But at least 15 places of worship of the minority community in Ahmedabad and some other parts of the State were vandalised and were converted overnight into `temples' during the last two days.
30 burnt alive
A Baroda report said 30 persons were burnt alive today at Pandarwal village in Panchamahal district of Gujarat, official sources said here. Curfew has been imposed in the area and rapid action force personnel have been deployed.
Killings in U.P., Rajasthan
A New Delhi report said three persons, including a teenager, were killed today as arson, communal clashes, demolition of shrines and police firing marred the 12-hour country-wide general strike called by the VHP.
Two persons belonging to minority community were killed in the communally-sensitive Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh triggering tension prompting authorities to deploy rapid action force.
A morning-walker was shot dead by unidentified assailants at the railway road and another stabbed to death at Naurangabad, police said.
A 16-year-old boy was killed when police fired to disperse warring communities near a place of worship at Simalwara town of Rajasthan's Dungarpur district.