Monday, August 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Deposed Fiji PM to visit India on Aug 17

NEW DELHI, Aug 6 (PTI) — Deposed Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who was released last month after being held hostage for eight weeks by rebel leader George Speight, is visiting India on August 17, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said today.

“We will give him a hearty welcome,” Mr Vajpayee said at a function to mark the Sant Shiromani Goswami Tulsidas Jayanti here.

India had greeted with a sense of relief the decision of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs to release Mr Chaudhry and his Cabinet colleagues from detention in Fiji’s Parliament building where they were held hostage since May 19.

New Delhi had hoped that this first step would lead to the restoration of a democratic and constitutional government within the framework of Fiji’s Constitution of 1997.

Stating that injustice had been done to Fijian Indians for years, he said India had been instrumental in mobilising international pressure to restore a democratic government in Suva.

Mr Vajpayee said people of Indian origin in Fiji had made immense contribution to the development of the island nation but, unfortunately, had been denied their legitimate rights.

Reacting swiftly to Chaudhry’s ouster, India had contacted leaders in Australia, New Zealand and the United Nations to emphasise that the Commonwealth’s principles outlined under the Harare Declaration and the Millbrook Action programme should be adhered to.

Soon after the military coup in Pakistan, the Commonwealth had decided to suspend Islamabad from its councils till restoration of democracy in that country.

Asserting that India’s secular credentials were proven beyond any doubt in the comity of nations, Mr Vajpayee said the country’s rich culture and traditions would be preserved for all times.

He appreciated the role of Indians settled abroad in this task and hoped the new generation would follow the teachings of Ramayana.

Describing Tulsidas as a great poet, Mr Vajpayee said his renderings in simple language were widely understood by common people while, at the same time, having immense depth to be appreciated by the intellectuals.

He said Ramcharitmanas, as penned by Tulsidas, had gone a long way in educating and influencing people over several decades.

In his characteristic style, Mr Vajpayee had the gathering spell-bound when he recounted the sacrifices made by Bharat for his elder brother Ram who was banished to the forests for 14 years.

Having a dig at the power tussle among politicians, he recounted that Bharat, when anointed the ruler, was an unhappy person and refused to adorn the throne saying it rightfully belonged to Ram.

Bharat took a long trek to the forests to bring back his brother but failed in his mission. Undeterred, he put Ram’s slippers on the throne which he said could only be occupied by his brother.

He said people in the country before independence had been subjected to foreign rule for decades. Ramcharitmanas and Tulsidas had contributed a lot in instilling self-confidence, courage and a spirit to fight injustice.

The works of Tulsidas had been instrumental in influencing dalits, downtrodden and the underprivileged.

BJP MP from Delhi Vijay Goel was among those present on the occasion.

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