Monday, March 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Gujarat toll mounts to 450
Mayhem in Godhra a pre-meditated attack, says Advani
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

Mohammad Kolota, the prime suspect in the Godhra train carnage was arrested today. Authorities claimed Kolota, president of the Godhra municipality and chief of the Congress minority cell, had joined the Congress six years ago.

Ahmedabad, March 3
With the recovery of more bodies from different parts of the state, the death toll in the communal violence following Godhra incidents has risen to 450. Of these 77 persons have been killed in police firing.

While six persons were reported killed in Palanpur, two of them in police firing, four bodies were found from different areas of Ahmedabad. Stray incidents of violence occurred at Bhavnagar, Vadodara and Godhra. The Army was helping maintain peace in Rajkot and Surat, police officials here said.

Tension erupted in the old city area of Ahmedabad today with mobs indulging in arson. About 40 shops were gutted in the area. Day curfew was continuing in 15 police stations of the city. People here feared that the death toll could rise in the state once an actual count was made of those killed. They said many people had gone missing and it was only after the situation normalised and families began to count their dead that a true picture of the scale of violence would emerge.

Police and fire personnel try to douse the fire set by vandals to a shop in Ahmedabad on Sunday. — PTI photo

A woman mourns the death of her family members killed by a mob in a village in Mehsana district in Gujarat on Sunday. — Reuters photo

Soldiers stand atop a truck in Ahmedabad on Sunday. 
— Reuters photo

Peace activists at a candlelight vigil organised by a group of concerned citizens near India Gate in New Delhi on Sunday in protest against the communal violence in Gujarat. — PTI photo

Many of the incidents of loot were occurring because of a sense of insecurity. People were leaving their homes and shops in sensitive areas to stay at relatively safer places.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister L.K. Advani said today that the four-year record of the BJP-led government at the Centre had been dented by the violence in Gujarat. On his first visit to the violence-torn Gujarat after February 27 incidents at Godhra, he said the Godhra carnage seemed to be pre-meditated and could be the handiwork of “inimical forces who have been cornered in the past six months.”

Without naming either Pakistan or the ISI, Mr Advani, however, said needle of suspicion pointed to that direction as the locals in Godhra could not have committed violence on such a large scale. “Such a situation can only comfort country’s enemies,” he said, pointing out that the internal situation also affected the borders.

Mr Advani, who flew to Godhra after visiting the civil hospital here, described the carnage in Godhra as terrorism. However, subsequent violence in the state which had claimed about 400 lives was termed by him as communal frenzy. While a judicial inquiry had already been ordered into the Godhra incidents, no such inquiry had yet been ordered into the subsequent violence. “Godhra and post-Godhra violence are separate issues,” he said.

Referring to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s description of violence in Gujarat as a national disgrace, Mr Advani did not agree that the state machinery had failed to effectively check communal flare-up after the Godhra incident. He said the death toll had successively come down after the mayhem of Thursday. He said 77 persons had died in police firing which, in a way showed, that the police had not been impassive.

Ridiculing the criticism of delay in sending the Army to the state, Mr Advani said after state Chief Minister Narendra Modi sought help of the Centre on February 28, a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on security was called by the Prime Minister to discuss the issue. He said while the presence of the Army had enormously helped in restoring order, he could not understand the logic behind the demand for handing over the state to the Army. To a question about Congress connections of some persons arrested in Godhra, Mr Advani said it would be wrong to look at the arrests from any political angle. “Four members of the local Municipal Board have been arrested. I don’t know if they belong to any political party,” he said.

He emphasised that the government was making efforts to arrest those behind the Godhra incidents as also those responsible for subsequent communal frenzy. Pointing to the burning of 60 persons in the Naroda area of Ahmedabad, he said mostly innocents were killed in the communal violence. The Home Minister, who passed on some questions to Mr Modi, said the government not only wanted to restore peace but also instill a sense of security among people.


Gujarat toll over 800: Cong

Ahmedabad, March 3
A fact-finding delegation of senior Congress leaders today claimed that the death toll in Gujarat, in the current spate of violence, was more than 800.

The delegation, led by Mr Kamal Nath, AICC General Secretary who is also in charge of Gujarat, which arrived here today to review the situation, told reporters, that it was a result of “inept” handling by the ruling BJP in the state. He also said if the Congress toll figure was incorrect, the state government should prove them wrong by giving evidence.

Mr Nath further claimed that while the police had been “inactive,” the Army was called in “very late” and “misdeployed” by the Narendra Modi government. UNI


Curfew in Aligarh after violence

Aligarh, March 3
Curfew was clamped on parts of old city today after the police fired in the air to disperse a violent mob protesting against the alleged killing of a vendor belonging to a minority community.

The police said curfew was imposed on three areas of the old city — Delhi Gate, Sasni Gate and Kotwali.

They said the trouble erupted following reports of alleged killing of the vendor who went missing from a picture hall yesterday evening.

When the vendor’s parents and relatives failed to trace him, protesters pelted the police with stones demanding the handing over the vendor’s body to them.

The police fired in the air to break the mob and authorities clamped curfew in three areas of the walled city.

The police patrolling in trouble-torn areas had been intensified.

However, State Director-General of Police R.K. Pandit said in Lucknow that the curfew in the Kotwali, Sasni Gate and Delhi Gate areas of Lucknow was officially imposed today after Special Police Officer Raizada was stabbed to death by some miscreants in the Kotwali area as he was coming to attend a peace committee meeting.

According to Mr Pandit, the three areas were already under an “undeclared curfew’’, but after the incident, curfew was imposed.

Tension had gripped Aligarh since March 1 after two persons were killed in separate incidents during a bandh call given by the VHP in protest against the Gujarat train fire incident. On March 1, one person each was killed in the firing in the Gandhi Park and Banna Devi areas.

However, SSP (Aligarh) Brij Bhushan had said the killings were not related to communal violence and were “routine crime cases.’’ At least three persons were arrested for their alleged involvement.

Jaipur: Curfew continued in the four police station areas of Udaipur and in two other Rajasthan towns on Sunday, the police said.

No fresh reports of violence had come from anywhere in the state, the state police control room said.

The curfew was relaxed for two hours this afternoon at Kishangarh in Ajmer district and for 90 minutes at Simalwara in Dungarpur district.

“People came out in large numbers to make purchases. The situation is normal and things are moving in the right direction,’’ Ajmer district collector Niranjan Arya said over phone. UNI

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