Friday, May 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Oppn rips off govt on Gujarat
Jaitley counters charges of state apathy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 2
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government came under fire in the Rajya Sabha today from the Congress-led Opposition for failing to protect the lives of innocent people in the continuing communal violence in Gujarat, which was threatening the unity and integrity of the country.

Even as the members from the Treasury Benches articulated the actions taken by the Gujarat Government and the Centre, the Opposition accused the government of complete inaction, which it said had “disillusioned” the entire nation.

Government’s criticism came when the House took up for discussion a motion moved by Leader of the Opposition Manmohan Singh and others, expressing deep sense of anguish over the violence in the state and urging the Centre to intervene effectively under Article 355 of the Constitution to protect the lives and property of the people.

As Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sat silently in the House, it was senior Congress leader Arjun Singh who started the debate rather than Manmohan Singh.

He launched a scathing attack on the government, saying it represented the “forces of disintegration” whose “hidden agenda” posed a serious threat to the unity and integrity of the country.

He said, “The entire nation is disillusioned with the government for not containing communal carnage.”

The BJP claimed it was a party with a difference, but its government in Gujarat had failed to maintain communal harmony. “There is a lot of difference between what they say and what they do”, he said.

His party colleague Ahmed Patel, who hailed from Gujarat, was also unsparing in his attack on the Centre and accused the Prime Minister of speaking in different languages on the communal violence in the state.

Mr Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M) alleged that both the Centre and the state government were working in a partisan manner while dealing with the communal violence in Gujarat.

From the government side, Leader of the House and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Law Minister Arun Jaitley expressed anguish over the communal conflagration in the state and expressed the government’s firm resolve to protecting the lives of all citizens, irrespective of their caste or religion.

“We will fulfil our constitutional obligations in letter and spirit. The loss of an Indian life, regardless of state, caste, religion or sex, grieves every Indian”, Mr Jaswant Singh said.

Mr Jaitley admitted that the communal violence in the state had tarnished the image of the country. “We can no longer take the pride in the fact that incidents of communal violence have come down considerably during our four years of rule”, he said, adding that “a serious introspection is needed”.

Rejecting Opposition charges that it was the minority community that had suffered the most in the riot-hit state, the Law Minister, quoting figures, said it was mostly the majority community against which action had been taken.

Taking exception to comparison of the Gujarat carnage with brutalities unleashed by Nazis against Jews in the early 1930s, Jaitley said India’s rich liberal tradition would never allow any ascendancy of theocracy.

“Let us learn lessons from history and not selective lessons,” he said, adding India came near Nazism only in 1975.

On allegations of state apathy towards victims of rape, loot, arson and violence, Jaitley, intervening in the discussion on the opposition motion on Gujarat, said the police had taken action in all cases brought to its notice.

He said if in some cases the police had failed to register FIRs, this was “disgraceful”.

He said the government would take stern action when such cases were brought to its notice.

To show that Gujarat authorities were taking stern steps to control communal violence in the state, the minister said the police had arrested 37,545 persons, of whom 14,144 had been detained on specific charges.

He said of the over 23,000 preventive arrests, 19,000 were from the majority community, adding that the Opposition rhetoric that the minority community was the victim of police action did not bear facts.

Outlining the confidence-building measures being undertaken to restore normalcy, he said so far 3,500 all-community meetings at village-level had been held in the state, 24,000 persons had already returned to their homes from their camps and families of 519 persons who had died in mob violence had been paid compensation of Rs 1 lakh each.

Mr Jaitley, who was repeatedly interrupted by Opposition members, said there was conclusive evidence that local Congress leaders were behind the Godhra carnage, but at the same time rejected the Opposition demand to hand over cases of five most seriously implicated persons to the CBI.

The minister also faced rough weather when he sought to blame senior Congress leaders for being behind the call to minority students to boycott examinations.

There was din in the House when Jaitley said he had a cassette to show the involvement of a Congress leader in the Godhra incident.

The Congress members countered him, saying they had photographs of VHP and BJP leaders leading the mobs. DMK member C.P. Thirunavukkarsu said the Godhra incident should be condemned, but there should not be any Newton’s law of action and reaction. He opposed the imposition of President’s rule in Gujarat, arguing that many Governors were corrupt.

The DMK member wondered why the National Conference chose to abstain from voting. AIADMK member V. Maitreyan said his party would abstain from voting as per directive of the party supremo J. Jayalalithaa.

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