Saturday, March 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Godhra moves all-party team
Advani to file reply on Monday
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

Ahmedabad, March 8
It was a day MPs wished had not come. Grim-faced, the 25 MPs who came here today as part of the all-party delegation to Gujarat, saw the pain of the victims of violence in Ahmedabad. While the MPs could meet many of the injured in the hospitals, a few had to be brought on stretchers to meet them at relief camps.

An anguished Congress President Sonia Gandhi made several queries to patients at Civil Hospital and V. S. Hospital. At the Dariah Khan Ghumat camp, where about 5,000 riot victims have found shelter, the police had a difficult time holding back people wanting to put their problems across. She also talked to the victims sitting in the front rows of the pandal, brimming with people. Enthused by her presence, Congress leaders were present in strength at all places the MPs visited. PCC chief Amarsinh Choudhary joined her in camps and hospital.

The media was kept at a distance and none of the Congress leaders in the delegation, including Mr Shivraj Patil and Mr Kapil Sibal, spoke about what they had seen in Ahmedabad and earlier at Godhra. Besides meeting victims of both the communities in hospitals, the MPs visited Kakria camp being run for the victims of the majority community and the Dariah Khan Ghumat camp for the minority community. They later met senior officials of the state government before leaving for New Delhi.

But not all MPs were reluctant to speak, though BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra apparently said that they had violated the code of conduct. Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of the RJD was the most vocal, saying that till the time the Modi government was not dismissed, no justice was possible. “Even IGs and judges are not safe in this government. The speed with which rioters acted was unprecedented,’’ he said.

A distressed G. M. Banathwala of the Muslim League said that it was not a communal riot but “genocide.’’ “Every one condemns what happened in Godhra, but it was criminal negligence by the state government which failed to deal with the communal flare-up. It ought to be dismissed,’’ he said.

Mr C.M. Ibrahim of the Janata Dal said a war would have to be waged against fundamentalism. “The government here has to prove that it exists,’’ he said. The BJP representatives, including Union Minister Pramod Mahajan, Mr Malhotra and Mr S. S. Ahluwalia, kept a low profile but they both spoke after some other MPs had talked to the media.

Remarks of Mr Yerran Naidu (TDP) and Mr Vaiko (MDMK) showed that the NDA allies were rallied behind the BJP.

Mr Ahluwalia said that whatever happened in the state since February 27 was unfortunate. “But it was important now to give a healing touch, promote brotherhood and lay stress on providing relief,’’ he said. Mr Ahluwalia said that the inquiry ordered by the state government would also tell about any conspiracy behind the Godhra incident.

Samata Party and Left party leaders, including Mr Somnath Chaterjee, did not give their reaction, saying that they would speak their minds in Parliament. CPI leader A. B. Bardhan was given medical treatment after he felt uneasy on return from Godhra. He left for Delhi with the delegation.

NEW DELHI: Home Minister L. K. Advani will reply on Monday morning to the Rajya Sabha short duration discussion on the Gujarat riots. This was announced in the House after the Treasury Benches and the Opposition arrived at a consensus that the Home Minister should be free by 1 pm to attend to his Lok Sabha duties. UNI

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