Beliefnet
Ahmadabad, India, July 11--(AP) Nervous members of the Muslim minority barricaded their neighborhoods on Thursday, the eve of an annual Hindu festival they fear could trigger a new wave of religious strife. Others said they would flee their homes or stay indoors during Friday's celebrations. Communal clashes have killed more than 1,000 people in the western Gujarat state this year.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindus devotees are expected to be on the streets of its main city, Ahmadabad. They will carry idols of the Hindu god, Jagannath, in a procession that will include chariots, elephants, gymnasts and dancers. More than 30,000 officers will be deployed to prevent fights in Muslim-majority neighborhoods and areas where fierce clashes have occurred before.

Hindu religious leaders rejected police requests to cancel this year's procession, but have promised restraint among their followers and have scaled down the event. Even so, Muslim leaders warned their community to take precautions. "No Muslim should come out on the streets along the route of the procession because there will be people looking for excuses to incite fresh violence," said Mufti Ahmed Shabir Khan, the chief cleric at Ahmadabad's main mosque.

Muslims erected iron gates to block off streets in some neighborhoods. "We are not convinced we are safe," said Mohammed Saleem, a Muslim shopkeeper.

Muslim clerics have also deferred the time of the Friday prayers at mosques so that members of both communities are not on the streets in large numbers at the same time. "The arrangements are such that there is no chance of trouble," said K.P.S. Gill, the security adviser to Gujarat's top elected official Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Gill's comments came after police rehearsed security precautions.

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