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Death Toll Reaches 16 in Rioting Over Short Story

December 9, 1986 GMT

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Moslems angered by a short story they consider insulting to the Prophet Mohammed rioted for a third day today in Karnataka state, and police said they shot and killed one rioter.

Police gunfire has killed at least 16 people since Sunday during protests over a fictional story in the largest English-language newspaper in the southern state.

The government’s All-India Radio said a curfew was extended in the city of Mysore and a ban on public assembly was imposed in other parts of the state, with a heavy police presence in many cities. Rock-throwing flared again this morning in Mysore and the state capital, Bangalore, the United News of India reported.

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The violence spread today to the town of Tumkur, northeast of Bangalore, where police reported one person was killed when riot police fired to scatter rampaging mobs. The rioters tried to set fire to public property, police said.

The All-India broadcast said 76 people were arrested on rioting charges today in Mysore, boosting the total number of arrests in the state to more than 175.

India’s chief law enforcement official, Home Minister Buta Singh, appealed in Parliament on Monday night for people to remain calm.

The violence began Sunday when thousands of Moslems marched through Bangalore to protest the short story in the English-language Deccan Herald. The fictional story, titled ″Mohammed the Idiot″ and written by P.K.N. Namboodiri, was first published a decade ago in a newspaper in Karala state.

The story describes a family’s problems with a mentally retarded son who eventually commits suicide. Moslem community leaders took exception to the use of the prophet’s name in the story.

The demonstrators turned violent, stoning vehicles and trying to set buildings on fire.

Police opened fire to quell the violence and at least nine people were reported killed.

State radio said the newspaper’s editor, M.P. Yeshwant Kumar, and its publisher were arrested Monday and charged with promoting communal enmity, but they were freed on bail.

An apology from the newspaper was broadcast by radio and television Sunday.

On Monday there was more rioting and the violence spread to Mysore, an ancient temple town, and the nearly smaller towns of Kolar, Hubli and Tumkur. Another person died in police fire Monday in Bangalore and five were killed in Mysore where police also opened fire to quell mobs.

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The state government dismissed Bangalore city police Commissioner P.G. Halrankar following the deaths. Moslem leaders demanded he be removed.

Relations among different religious communities often become tense after even minor provocations. Hundreds of people die every year in India in sectarian clashes.

India has an estimated 80 million Moslems out of a total population of about 750 million. The rioting in southern India came a week after clashes in New Delhi between Hindus and Sikhs. Six people died in two days of clashes following the killing of 24 Hindu bus passengers by Sikh extremists in Punjab state Nov. 30.