Friday, Mar 01, 2002
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THE GRISLY GODHRA (Gujarat) episode of arson on Wednesday that left 50-odd passengers of the Sabarmati Express dead most of them Kar Sevaks returning from Ayodhya and the backlash of mindless violence it had triggered elsewhere in the State, as rampaging mobs have in a series of reprisals hit back at the minority community and its properties, are clear, disturbing pointers to the explosive communal buildup across the country as a direct consequence of the VHP's provocative and destructive campaign for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. What happened in Godhra, about which there are different and conflicting versions, is a dastardly act and it deserves to be condemned unequivocally and in the strongest of terms, and no provocation can even remotely be brought in to justify the slaughter of innocent people. No effort should be spared by the Government to track down the culprits and bring them to justice at the earliest, even as quick measures are taken to ensure that the vicious spiral of violence does not get out of hand and a sense of security is restored among the people.
This said, one cannot but pinpoint the harsh reality that events such as the horror of Godhra were tragically predictable as a result of the wounding and aggressive communal campaign of the VHP. It has been ruthlessly pursuing its agenda of commencing the temple construction on March 15, "come-what-may", and whipping up communal passions through mass mobilisation of Ram Sevaks some one million of them across the country. The whole buildup, which started gaining momentum about a month ago with the VHP and its `sant parivar' giving an ultimatum to the Vajpayee Government to hand over the so-called `undisputed' part of the acquired land has been typical of the much-too-familiar strategy of the Sangh Parivar, providing an ominous throwback to the runup to the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992. As a consequence of the audaciously provocative ways of the Ram temple proponents as evidenced by their determination to start moving the carved stone pillars to the building site from March 15 and the regular convergence of frenzied Kar Sevak contingents on Ayodhya from different parts of the country daily since February 24 the situation on the communal front rapidly deteriorated, with sharp polarisation of the majority and minority community, becoming explosive by the day. The dangerous implications of such a trend for a State like Gujarat known for its high vulnerability to communal riots and its perceived status as a laboratory of Hindutva political doctrines are alarming. In many respects, the evolving milieu resembles what obtained during L. K. Advani's rath yatra, an event that generated communal disturbance all along its route.
To all the open and persistent threats by the VHP to flout governmental authority, judicial injunctions and the law of the land, the Vajpayee regime's response has been singularly devoid of any inclination to preempt a potential disaster. There has been on its part a shocking disinclination to make such interventions. Its attitude suggesting the maintaining of status quo at the disputed site strongly hinted of a narrowly partisan calculation that had to do with the just-concluded Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. That the strategy did not pay off is a different story. It required a horrendous episode of Godhra's dimensions for the Vajpayee Government even to make an appeal to the VHP to stop its temple construction agenda. It is only now that the Government appears moved to take such elementary preventive steps like barring entry of Kar Sevaks in Ayodhya and screening passengers of Ayodhya-bound trains. The Vajpayee administration's response is a clear case of `too little, too late'. The need of the moment, post-Godhra and given the ominous portents of the worst fears of a communal conflagration proving true, is decisive action nation-wide that asserts a `no-nonsense' approach to the VHP's law-defying Ram temple construction plan and also inspires public confidence that the Government is indeed serious about upholding the rule of law. The present political uncertainty in Uttar Pradesh following a terribly fractured mandate only casts a greater responsibility on the Centre in this regard.
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