- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

NEW DELHI, March 26 (UPI) — Unidentified gunmen Wednesday shot dead a former minister of an Indian state when he was returning from a morning walk.

Two gunmen on motorcycles shot Haren Pandya at point blank range while he was returning home from a garden in Ahmedabad city. Pandya, 43, was hit by five bullets in the chest and died on the spot.

Police sources say Muslim militants might have killed Pandya since he was the internal security minister of India's western state of Gujarat when the province witnessed bloody religious riots that left nearly 1,000 Muslims dead last year.

The riots began when suspected Islamic rebels set on fire a train carrying Hindu pilgrims that left 58 Hindus dead. Irate Hindu mobs then torched several parts of Gujarat state, targeting the Muslim minority.

Human rights group and witnesses blamed ruling the Hindu nationalist party for being a mute spectator to the violence. Although the Bharatiya Janata Party won the elections the following months, Pandya parted ways with the state Chief Minister Narender Modi and did not contest elections.

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