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Indian Children’s Bodies Go Unclaimed

March 11, 2002

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AHMADABAD, India (AP) _ In large, stinking halls at hospital morgues in Gujarat, the bodies of dozens of children, burned beyond recognition during recent religious strife, go unclaimed.

In relief camps across this western state _ torn apart by Hindu-Muslim violence that killed more than 700 people _ parents cling to hope and desperately search for their missing children, some refusing to believe they are dead.

``My wife left me last year. She died after a brief illness. Since then, my children are my only hope,″ said Hasan Mansoori, a Muslim tailor who went into shock after the riots and now is at a relief camp in Ahmadabad, the largest city in Gujarat and scene of most of the deaths.

Mansoori’s two young sons are missing. Police confirm they are dead.

``Whoever tells me about their death is a liar,″ Mansoori said.

At least 706 people, mostly Muslims, were burned, stabbed and shot to death in the riots. The six-day violence began Feb. 27 when a Muslim mob massacred 62 Hindus by setting fire to their train car at Godhra.

The Hindus were returning from Ayodha, the site of a 16th-century mosque razed by Hindus in 1992, sparking religious riots then. Hindu nationalists want to build a temple to the god Rama at or near the site 310 miles east of New Delhi.

India Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told Parliament on Monday there would be no activity at the site unless the Supreme Court allows it. The court will hear the case Wednesday.

In the recent violence, children from both religions were killed on the train, in the cities and in remote villages.

Days after the rioting ended, Mansoori’s sons were in the morgue at the V.S. Hospital, their bodies charred and impossible to identify.

``It is difficult to recognize, though we know that these were his children as we recovered (them) from inside his house,″ said Mayor Himmatsinh Patel, who has based himself at the hospital.

Doctors advised police not to take Mansoori to the morgue.

``He is in such a condition that I did not dare tell him the truth,″ police Inspector K.K. Mysorewalla said.

The officer has, so far, only hinted to Mansoori about the fates of his sons.

In another part of the city, Fatima Bibi has searched for her three children since a Hindu mob burned her Narodagaon neighborhood outside the city on Feb. 28. Her husband, Naseer Hussain Khan, was burned to death.

Bibi escaped the burning house and suffered burn injuries. She now lives in a relief camp, spending her days pleading with policemen, community leaders and relief workers to help find her children.

No one wants to tell her that the children were burned with their father and now lie among the 22 unclaimed bodies at the Civil Hospital Morgue. Fourteen of those bodies are children.

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