5 Apr 2002
Gujarat incidents a blot: PM
By Manas Dasgupta
AHMEDABAD April 4. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has made no secret of his displeasure about the way the Narendra Modi Government in Gujarat has handled the riots and asked the people to shun violence and restore amity and peace in the State.
In an unscheduled brief address to the inmates of the Shah Alam Roza minority relief camp here today, Mr. Vajpayee told officials in clear terms to "perform their duty'' and the political leadership to "undertake their responsibility.'' It was the Government's duty to protect everyone's life and property "without any discrimination'' and could not allow the "madness'' to overtake humanity.
Mr. Vajpayee said the Gujarat events were a "blot'' on India which enjoyed respect and prestige in the comity of nations because of the way the 100 crore people of diverse religion, culture and ethnic groups lived together happily, "share our griefs and joys, but never forget the message of peace and brotherhood.'' But what was happening in Gujarat was not only heart-rending but "most inhuman and horrible.''
An emotional Mr. Vajpayee seemed to have instantly touched the hearts of the riot victims living in difficult conditions in the relief camps. Even while showing bitterness against Mr. Modi, who was standing next to the Prime Minister, the 8,000 or so inmates of the camp repeatedly appreciated Mr. Vajpayee's concern over their sufferings. Mr. Vajpayee said that Hindu rites require a person to be put on the pyre only after his death. "I cannot imagine how a living being can be burnt alive, have all the people become mad? Have Satanic forces overtaken the humanity,'' he asked in an emotion-choked voice.
He said that while the Godhra train carnage was "shameful'' for the entire humanity, the post-Godhra violence was no less condemnable. "Madness cannot be answered with madness, fire cannot douse fire, you need water to stop fire from spreading,'' he said. He appealed to the non-government organisations and prominent citizens to assist the Government to "apply the balm'' on the wounds of the minorities.
In an obvious reference to some Hindu extremist organisations' designs to "drive out Muslims'' from the country, Mr. Vajpayee said: "Stop all talks of enmity, separatism. For centuries, Hindus and Muslims have lived together in this country and will continue to do so, there is no option.'' He said the Hindu religion and culture did not believe in discriminating against anyone on grounds of religion, caste or culture. "This is why India is respected the world over, our voice is heard among the comity of nations. We cannot be slaves to madness and fanaticism.''
Mr. Vajpayee said he was due to embark upon a foreign tour soon which included Muslim countries. "I do not know what face I will show them now after the shameful events in Gujarat.'' It was a matter of great shame that people had become refugees in their own land, homeless in their own home. "The way you have been made to live in the relief camps, is also a matter of great shame to us.''
``I have come here to share your grief, to tell you that the entire nation feel for your sufferings,'' he said. He might be criticised for coming more than 35 days after the violence broke out.
After Mr. Vajpayee completed his speech and was preparing to leave, therestive crowd started shouting anti-Modi slogans but was pacified by the organisers.
While Mr. Modi was allowed to accompany Mr. Vajpayee in the camp as part of an understanding reached with the organisers on Wednesday night, the Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadaphia, who the victims believe was equally responsible for the massacre was asked to keep off the camp.