ARMED rioters fought running battles with police in Bombay yesterday as security forces struggled to quell Hindu-Muslim violence.
An estimated 157 people have died in western India in five days of bloody clashes.
Scores of fires raged across Bombay, India's business capital, as rival gangs looted smoldering shops, residents said. Thirteen areas of Bombay and 14 in Ahmedabad, to the north in Gujarat, have been placed under curfew, but this has not stemmed the wave of violence that is part of a dramatic flaring of sectarian hatred since Hindus destroyed an ancient mosque in northern India on Dec. 6.
The most recent violence appeared to have been deliberately fanned by Hindu political groups trying to push Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao into an early general election, political sources said.
Although extra troops were rushed to Bombay, the unrest continued because the security forces have been limited to staging shows of force and have not tried to intervene in the riots with weapons. A senior Bombay police officer said police efforts were hampered by a shortage of weapons; most police were equipped only with bamboo canes.
Police have come under fire and been attacked with homemade bombs.