Who is responsible for Gujarat carnage?

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Barring a stabbing incident in Rajpipla town of the Narmada district, the situation was today normal in other parts of strife-torn Gujarat. Indefinite curfew was imposed in the Rajpipla town following a tense situation after a man was stabbed to death by a group of people. ‘

Life in parts of the state was fast limping back to normal but fear psychosis gripped the violence hit area of Ahmedabad city, Mehsana, Kheda, Sabarkantha, Godhra (Panchmahal), Dahod district areas.

Vehicular traffic was thin on the highways and other district areas as people stayed away from trade and business in the most affected areas in south, central and northern Gujarat even after a week of uncertainty.

Over 70,000 people affected in the violence across the city areas and districts had been taking shelter in different relief camps.

In Ahmedabad city, night curfew remained in force in four police station areas of Vejalpur, Bapunagar, Rakhial and Gomtipur. The curfew is gradually being relaxed in other places including Godhra, Baroda, Surat and other towns with normal situation prevailing in the state.

In the firing line

The violence may have died down but the scars beneath the surface will take much longer to heal. Al all-party delegation visited the state this Friday and they now insist attention must focus on the role of the Gujarat government in these riots.

The official toll of last week’s mayhem has now shot up to 678, surpassing the 660 official deaths recorded in 1969 riots, remembered as the worst riots in Gujarat’s history.

Eminent Gandhian Chunibhai Patel has seen Ahmedabad’s worst years – the 1969 violence, the riots of 1985 and the violence after the fall of the Babri Masjid.

“There is a method in the madness. The earlier governments may have been incompetent but at least they wanted to stop the violence. This time it seemed that for some days the government did not want to stop it,” maintained Chunibhai Vaidya, President, Gujarat Lok Samiti.

The allegation is that the police was deliberately stopped from reacting in time as government ministers were placed in key command centres. Gujarat’s Home Minister Gordhan Jadhaphiya who is a former VHP worker hotly denied the charge.

But the allegation remains that for 24 hours Ahmedabad burnt with no signs of a government crackdown. Even the Police Commissioner admitted that in some cases the police just stood by and watched.

“Down the line everybody gets influenced. The police also gets equally influenced by the sentiment. That is the tragedy,” said PC Pandey, Commissioner.

Its worst manifestation – the Gulbarg society where former Congress MP, 74-year old Ehsaan Jaffrey, was killed along with 55 others after a 5 hour siege despite hundreds of frantic calls to the police and government officials.

“He kept waiting in the hope that the police would come. But the police didn’t want to come and they didn’t,” said Zakia Naseem Jaffrey, wife of Ehsaan Jaffrey.

In Noroda, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, almost 200 houses were burnt leaving 84 people dead. Among the FIRs lodged, six were against prominent BJP, VHP or Bajrang Dal activists. The VHP says it is impossible to single their supporters out from the crowds.

“There have been thousands of people on the roads and some could have bene our people. So if the police wants to arrest them they can arrest all the thousands of people on the roads,” said Dr Jaideep Patel, Joint Secretary, VHP, Gujarat.

Throughout the city, people are sifting through the ruins trying to rebuild their lives but in a state that is now completely divided along communal lines it will be difficult to stitch back the social fabric and restore faith in the organs of the state.

Govt acted quickly: Modi

The Gujarat Chief Minister has rejected the charge that the state administration had not acted promptly to check communal riots after the Godhra massacre.

“If you want to crucify me, then it is different. But the fact is that I had given order to home and police departments on the night of the Godhra incident to make arrangements to control any flare up,” he said.

Maintaining that over 100 people were killed in police firing and over 4000 arrested, Modi said he had appealed to the people not to take the law into their own hands and help the state administration in maintaining order.

He termed as wrong the allegation that the state machinery did not act quickly to control the frenzy.


By Nalin Mehta in www.ndtv.com - May 10, 2002
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