NEW DELHI, India – More than 500 people have died as a result of riots here last week. A dozen Islamic houses of worship have been razed and more than 70 people – including children – were burned alive. Among those burned was a former Member of Parliament and his family of six, according to the newsmagazine Ganashakti.

The riots followed in the wake of the Feb 27 attack at the Godhra railway station in east Gujarat, when a mob set fire to a train compartment that carried activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on their way to Ayodhya in north India to organize the building of a Ram temple.

Harkishan Singh Surjeet, general secretary of the Communist Pary of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and A.B. Bardhan, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), said in a joint statement March 1, “After the ghastly attack on the Sabarmati Express in which 58 people were burned to death, it was expected that the Gujarat government would do everything to maintain peace and prevent retaliatory attacks.”

“Instead, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government has allowed rampaging mobs to roam freely, targeting people from the minority community and their properties. The large-scale arson and killing of innocent people took place with the police standing by and watching,” they charged.

Ayodhya is a point of severe division because in December 1992 Hindu extremists tore down an historic mosque there. The VHP wants the Ram temple to be built on the same spot and is proceeding with its plans despite the matter being before Indian courts. The VHP is a Hindu extremist organization that enjoys the support of the right-wing government dominated by the BJP.

“The horrific violence that erupted in Gujarat because of the call of the VHP for a [demonstration] has shocked the entire country,” the joint statement said.

“Despite repeated pleas for army deployment in the evening, the [federal] government failed to act. Rioting continued and the army is yet to be deployed.

“The BJP government with its history of outright communal bias cannot be entrusted with maintaining law and order in such a situation. The government has to assume the responsibility of sending in the army and supervising their deployment and operations.”

The BJP is supporting to the call by the VHP for demonstrations in various states to protest the Godhra incident, which only further aggravates the situation, the statement said. India’s left parties, the CPI(M), CPI, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc called for a National Unity Day March 6. The parties, which represent millions of people in India, are organizing public meetings and rallies to demand the government intervene immediately to stop the VHP’s mobilization at Ayodhya and to uphold the rule of law.