Hindu mobs went on a rampage today, burning more than 200 Moslem shops and killing at least four persons during a religious festival just two days before a major political showdown between the South Indian Telegu Desam Party and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's ruling Congress (I) Party.
Army troops and at least 8,000 paramiliatary personnel from outside the state of Andhra Pradesh were called in to quell the riots, while a curfew was imposed over three-quarters of this city.
At least six people were killed, five in stabbing incidents and one by police gunfire, The Associated Press reported. The news agency quoted police sources as saying about 40 people were injured.
While the riots appeared to be communal and not outwardly connected to politics, the Congress (I)-backed chief minister, N. Bhaskara Rao, charged tonight that the disturbances were politically motivated to influence voting in the state assembly on Tuesday. The vote of confidence will determine whether deposed chief minister N. T. Rama Rao will be reinstated in office.
In his press conference, Bhaskara Rao, who was installed as chief minister by the Congress (I) leadership after Rama Rao was summarily dismissed last month, accused Rama Rao's Telegu Desam workers of instigating the disturbances.
"There is definitive information that this is the handiwork of those who are often self-proclaiming a majority," Bhaskara Rao said.
However, Rama Rao's supporters said the riots were organized by Bhaskara Rao in order to undermine the vote.
Hindu-Moslem violence has erupted here every year since 1979 during the festival that marks the birth of the Hindu deity Genesh. Last year, at least 12 people were killed.
The normally bustling Begam bazaar was deserted tonight, as fires continued to burn in Moslem shops set ablaze by Hindu mobs. Despite a 24-hour curfew, truckloads of Hindu youths chanting religious slogans roamed through the Moslem neighborhoods. Rashid Hussein, the Moslem owner of the Bombay Bakery, said a Hindu mob attacked his shop shortly after noon, tore down a photograph of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and set fire to furniture.
"These Hindus were friends and neighbors," Hussein said. "I don't understand what is happening. Hindus come in here to eat all the time."