NEW DELHI — Tens of thousands of Muslims and Hindus rioted Friday, leaving four dead in India's capital and nine elsewhere. Delhi's entire police force was put on alert in an attempt to forestall further bloodshed.
Three of the four killed in the Indian capital were hit by police firing their guns to restore order, a spokesman said. Seventy-seven other people were injured in the riots, including 15 policemen.
In Meerut, about 47 miles northeast of New Delhi, nine people were killed in Hindu-Muslim clashes and three bodies were found in the wake of violence earlier this week.
At least 57 people have died in five days of rioting in Meerut since last weekend. Six have been killed in Delhi since Monday and six in the western city of Broach.
The New Delhi police commissioner, Ved Marwah, told a news conference that the capital was "absolutely under control, but still very tense." He said all of the capital had been put on alert, not just the riot-affected areas, "because we cannot rule out trouble in any part of the city, and we are not taking any chances."
Delhi Curfew Lifted
A curfew imposed after riots in Old Delhi on Monday was lifted to allow Muslims to attend midday prayers Friday on the last day of the Ramadan fast.
Friday's violence broke out as 70,000 Muslims returned home from two mosques. Marwah said 40 to 50 shops and houses were burned and looted.
He said his men had restored order by firing 28 shots and 52 tear-gas shells and making repeated baton charges on the mobs.
In Old Delhi, a teeming quarter of 1 million inhabitants where curfew was reimposed Friday afternoon, police warned reporters of possible rooftop snipers, and army patrols cautiously searched the narrow streets.
Charred goods spilled from the remains of burned-out shops; a child howled amid the rubble and the knots of policemen outside her home, and two frightened women invited newsmen into their home to show the devastation inside and the bruises they had received while trying to hold back the mob.
In Meerut, a city of 1 million people with a slight Hindu majority, police said they had already arrested 550 people when intercommunal strife broke out again Friday.
Muslims Huddle in Mosque
A group of 13 frightened Muslims huddling inside a mosque near the city center said they had lost their shops or homes in the riots.
"Thousands of Muslims and Hindus fought a pitched battle outside here on Monday," said Taj Mohammed, a dairy farmer. "The Hindus and the police are out to destroy all Muslims."
In the street outside, a Hindu bank clerk, R.K. Sharma, told a different story, seeing the violence as the Muslims' angry response to a court judgment that permitted Hindus to worship at a shrine claimed by both religions.
"This was all planned by the Muslims to take revenge for the shrine. Of course our people beat up a few of them, but it was mainly the fault of the Muslims."