Saturday, August 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


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President to visit Gujarat on Aug 12
Move unnerves Centre
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

President A P J Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani
President A P J Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani during an 'at home' at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, August 9
In a precedent setting move having far reaching implications, President A P J Abdul Kalam is suo motu undertaking a day’s visit to Gujarat on August 12 and will begin his programme there by visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram near Ahmedabad.

This will be Mr Kalam’s first sojourn outside the Capital since he assumed the office of the President on July 25.

It is only by proper invitation that the President visits any state as his duties and responsibilities are necessarily with in a groove in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution. Before the Head of State formally accepts any invitation, the matter is referred to the state government concerned for its comments.

In the present instance what the Atal Behari Vajpayee government finds startling is that the President’s Secretariat has fixed Mr Kalam’s schedule of visiting Gujarat. While there is no bar on the President making trips to different parts of the country, this is the first time that an occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan has drawn up a schedule of visiting a particular state.

That the country’s missile man as the Head of State has chosen to visit Gujarat first has led to an element of unease in the BJP-led NDA government. The Narendra Modi government is in the caretaker mould having dissolved the Assembly in the state.

Mr Kalam’s trip to Gujarat assumes significance for several reasons as well as drawing inspiration from the ideals and noble teachings of the Father of the Nation.

While in Ahmedabad and Bhuj, the President will keep his date with schoolchildren and apprise himself of the rehabilitation and other measures undertaken by the Gujarat Government and NGOs for those affected by the recent communal disturbances in the state.

He will visit the house of the late Vikram Sarabhai whom he regards as his respected guru and great visionary. He will also have an interface with intellectuals, political leaders, technologists and scientists.

Thereafter, Mr Kalam will proceed to Kutch for a first hand assessment of the progress achieved in the relief work for the earthquake victims.

In his brief speech after being sworn in as President on July 25 in the Central Hall of Parliament, Mr Kalam had drawn pointed attention to”internal conflicts” and “cross-border terrorism” as the twin challenges facing the country.

While referring to internal conflicts, the Godhra carnage of February 27 and the subsequent communal riots in Gujarat seems to have been on the mind of the President though he made no specific reference to these bone chilling incidents.

Retaining his simplicity, Mr Kalam had said at a press conference on June 19 after the NDA had chosen him as their Presidential nominee, that “what had happened in Gujarat is very painful. We should prevent it at all costs.”

The government found itself in a spot in responding positively to Mr Kalam’s suggestion of addressing the MPs of both Houses of Parliament. It was politely conveyed to the President that there is no provision whereby the First Citizen could undertake such an exercise.

Nevertheless, there is no deterrent on Mr Kalam having an interface with groups of MPs to assess their views on developmental and other issues of national importance. His predecessors have been having such meetings with MPs over breakfast or high tea.


Modi told officials ‘not to act’

New Delhi, August 9
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a late night meeting on February 27 did instruct officials and politicians to turn a blind eye to the Hindu reaction which could follow the Godhra train arson, two senior Judges have confirmed.

Justice P.B. Sawant, who was a member of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal which enquired into the post-Godhra riots, said police officers, politicians and administrative officials who at present hold high posts in the state government had confirmed this while deposing before the tribunal.

Justice Sawant, who is a former Supreme Court Judge and also former chairman of the Press Council of India, said in an interview in the forthcoming issue of the ‘Outlook’ magazine that the report of the tribunal would be made public within a fortnight.

Mr Haren Pandya, a former minister in Mr Modi’s Cabinet, had been forced to resign following allegations that he had leaked details of the meeting held on the day of the Godhra train carnage to a journal and a citizen’s tribunal.

“I would say that we have good information from credible people that at the meeting, Mr Modi asked his officials not to come in the way of what will occur in the next few days,” Justice Sawant said.

“The implication of what he said at the meeting is without any doubt a causative factor of what happened the next day. I do not want to be more specific about the kind of people who spoke to us because I can’t risk even a small chance of letting their identities be known. But I can say that it was not just a single minister. There were other politicians, top police and administrative officials,” he said.

“In my opinion, there were two kinds of people who spoke to us: those who swam with the tide before and during the riots but felt repentant now, and those who supported the backlash but on hindsight felt the Chief Minister had gone too far,” he added.

Former Bombay High Court Judge Justice Hosbet Suresh who was also a member of the tribunal also confirmed the meeting. “Yes, a senior minister appeared before us for 35-40 minutes and talked about a few things that led to the Gujarat carnage. Among other things, the minister spoke about the meeting Mr Modi called on the night of February 27,” he said. UNI


Rehabilitation not early poll, riot-hit tell Lyngdoh

Chief Election Commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh talks to a riot victim
Chief Election Commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh talks to a riot victim during his visit to the Shah-e-Alam relief camp in Ahmedabad on Friday.

Riot victims' children at a rally against communalism
Riot victims' children at a rally against communalism, organised by volunteer organisations in Ahmedabad on Friday. — PTI photos

Ahmedabad, August 9
An Election Commission team, led by Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, visited Shah-e-Alam relief camp and a few riot-affected societies in the Danilimda area of the city this morning to assess the situation before deciding on holding Assembly poll in Gujarat.

The visit of Mr Lyngdoh and two Election Commissioners — Mr T.S. Krishnamurthy and Mr B.B. Tandon — who reached here last night, comes close on the heels of the visit by the nine-member team which toured the state last week to assess the situation for holding elections.

Mr Lyngdoh talked with inmates of the Shah-e-Alam relief camp housing about 5,000 riot victims, sources said, adding that he asked questions related to the poll process and participation of those people in the exercise.

The EC team also went to Jaltarang Society, where 11 houses were burnt, besides Gheewali Chawli, Jethabhai ni Chawli and Ghisabhai ni Chawli — all in Behrampura.

They also inquired of the people whether they had identity cards and if they had any problems.

Some banners were put up at the relief camp, opposing the holding of early Assembly elections and demanding that violence victims be rehabilitated first and then the poll be conducted.

At Shah-e-Alam, the CEC asked Mr Sharief Khan, the camp organiser, on how many people were in the camp and why were they not going back. Mr Khan told him that there were around 4,000 persons at the relief camp and they were scared to go back to their localities because of the “overwhelming feeling of insecurity”.

Mr Nasirkhan Rahimkhan Pathan, a teacher of English in a private school, who is from Naroda Patia and has taken shelter at the camp, said “there was a feeling of insecurity after the release on bail of Suresh Langda and Guddu Chara”, who were allegedly involved in the violence in the area. PTI 


Godhra massacre: 71 acquitted

Godhra, August 9
A local court today acquitted 71 persons, including Haji Bilal and former councillor Mohammed Hussain Kalota, prime accused in the Godhra train carnage, after the prosecution failed to prove their involvement in incidents of arson and violence subsequent to the February 27 incident.

Immediately after the order was pronounced, 44 of them, including Bilal and Kalota, were rearrested in connection with the attack on Sabarmati Express and were sent back to jail, official sources said. PTI

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