Muslims, Hindus clash over demolished mosque in Goa
Sanvodem, March. 4 (AP): Several hundred Hindu protesters stormed a police station in a town in the coastal state of Goa on Saturday, demanding the release of 37 men arrested during violent Hindu-Muslim clashes in the area.
The protesters defied a police curfew imposed after three days of clashes, sparked when suspected Hindu extremists destroyed a mosque in the town of Sanvodem.
Five people, including three police officers, were wounded on Saturday as police tired to repel the rioters with batons, said Police Superintendent Satkhar Prabhubesai.
The demonstrators responded by bombarding police with rocks and beating officers.
An Associated Press reporter saw several men beat a policeman unconscious with rocks and sticks and then steal his gun. The Hindu mob then rampaged through the town, looting Muslim shops and burning vehicles and buildings.
An overturned car lay in a pile of debris in front of the police station.
Relations between India’s Hindus and minority Muslims are uneasy and often flare into violence.
On Friday a Muslim protest in the northern city of Lucknow against the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush, turned into a Muslim-Hindu riot in which four people were shot dead and 20 wounded.
However, religious clashes in Goa, a former Portuguese colony and one of India’s premier tourist attractions, are rare.
The violence took place some 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of the tourist beaches on India’s west coast.
The unrest started on Wednesday after suspected Hindu extremists destroyed a prayer room in the mosque, which was said to be illegally built on government land.
As Muslim groups gathered to protest, Hindus rallied against them and completely destroyed the mosque on Friday night.
Police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse the rioters and detained the 37 men, said Ujjwal Mishra, the district police chief.
The protesters left the police station later on Saturday after Hindu politicians intervened to secure the release of the men.
However, the area remained tense and more than 300 police officers were deployed in the streets of the town, Prabhubesai said.