At least 58 people, most of them kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed and 43 injured when miscreants attacked the Sabarmati Express and set afire four of its coaches at Godhra railway station in Gujarat on Wednesday.
Following the incident, large-scale violence and stabbings were reported from Godhra town, Ahmedabad and Baroda.
The dead included women and children, a senior railway official said.
When the train from Faizabad arrived at Godhra railway station at around 8.30 am (IST), the kar sevaks travelling on it and some locals on the platform started shouting slogans.
As the train started moving, someone pulled the emergency chain and it came to a halt near the signal point, where a mob attacked the coaches with petrol and acid bombs, setting them on fire, the official said.
Some passengers were trapped inside the coaches and burned to death, he said.
Mahant Devendradasji, the head priest of a temple in Ahmedabad, who was in the train, said: "A few people began stoning the train without any provocation. As a reaction, people inside the coaches downed shutters."
The mahant said the attackers numbered over 2,000.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appealed to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to postpone its plan for constructing a temple in Ayodhya. But the VHP said it had no authority to do so and was determined to go ahead with the construction as directed by religious leaders.
The outfit also called for a Gujarat bandh on Thursday to protest against the attack.
Indefinite curfew was clamped in Godhra immediately after the incident, as large-scale violence erupted. Police opened fire at many places to disperse rioting mobs.
In Ahmedabad, a bus was set afire by a mob in Bapunagar, while some passengers of a community were injured in an attack by a group of people, the police said.
In Baroda, one person was stabbed to death and five were injured after a mob attacked them at the waiting hall of Baroda railway station, the police said.
The governments of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal have sounded a high alert and instructed district authorities to ensure law and order in communally sensitive areas.
Among the injured in the attack on the train were 31 men, nine women and three children. Of them, 20 passengers who sustained serious burns were admitted to a hospital at Godhra.
One of the coaches of the 18-bogie train was completely gutted, official sources said.
The passengers stranded at Godhra were brought to Ahmedabad by state transport and private buses.
Two coaches were detached at the Godhra station, while the train with the rest of the coaches arrived at Ahmedabad, railway sources said.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced a probe into the incident and an ex- gratia of Rs 200,000 to the kin of those killed.
Sabarmati Express set afire in Gujarat, 30 dead
Sabarmati Express bogie set afire; trouble in Baroda
VHP announces 'muhurat' for shifting temple pillars to disputed site
UP told to keep VHP activists out of Ayodhya
Tell us what you think of this report