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Central & South Asia
Indians riot near Taj Mahal
Authorities impose a curfew after protesters clash with police close to tomb.
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2007 12:19 GMT
A crowd confronted the police and some pelted the authorities with stones [AFP]

The Indian authorities have partially closed the Taj Mahal, the country's most famous landmark, and imposed a curfew in parts of Agra after rioting in the city left one person dead and 50 injured.
 
A group fought with anti-riot police on Wednesday, pelting them with stones, glass bottles and setting about 30 vehicles on fire.
JN Chamber, a senior government official, said that 10 people - six of them police and four of them firefighters - were injured and one civilian was shot dead in the rioting.
 
He said that all schools and colleges in the city were closed for three days, but said the rioting was under control.
The state government of Uttar Pradesh, where Agra is located, issued a warning, asking tourists to stay in their hotels until order was restored.
 
Udai Ram, another local government official, said that the Taj Mahal was outside of the curfew zone and was open to tourists, but that one of its two gates had been closed closed.
 
Road accident
 
Vikram Singh, the director-general of police in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, said the rioting had been sparked by residents who had gone "berserk after a speeding truck killed four people".
 
A senior official in the Agra district said: "Four died in a road accident earlier in the day and one more was killed in violence that broke out later."

The four were walking home from a festival that falls about two weeks before the start of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims.

News of the accident, which occurred about four kilometres from the Taj Mahal, spread and, according to witnesses, a crowd had begun to confront the police.

Safety concerns

Hotels and tour operators organising visits to the Taj Mahal, built by the emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as a tomb for his queen, have said that Indian and foreign visitors were safe.

Mukesh Rai, who organises visits to the mausoleum said: "Some visitors from our hotel had been to the Taj this morning but they have all come back safe."

"There is one way still open and three of our visitors who had gone came back very soon - well before the curfew was declared."

Sunil Sharma, who works at a nearby hotel said that half a dozen visitors from the hotel who toured the monument earlier on Wednesday had also returned safely.

Sharma said: "I think things are settling down."

However, an official from the Mughal Sheraton, a hotel 1.5km from the Taj Mahal, said that it had received many cancellation requests since Wednesday morning.

The official said: "The main motive of people visiting Agra is to see the Taj, and when they heard about the curfew, I think people preferred to cancel."

Almost three million domestic and foreign tourists visit the Taj Mahal annually, more than any other tourist site in India.

In July, it was voted as one the world's top new "Seven Wonders" through a mobile phone text message and Internet poll.
Source:
Agencies
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