Thursday, Nov 14, 2002
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By J. Venkatesan
In a communication sent to the Gujarat Government today, the Commission noted with concern that the proposed yatra would use the replicas of the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express that was torched by miscreants on February 27. There was also the likelihood of communally provocative and intemperate speeches being made during the yatra.
The Commission referred to a report sent by the State administration saying that there was the likelihood of communal tensions and passions getting exacerbated by the proposed yatra. The report had unequivocally stated that the possibility of a law and order situation arising in the wake of the yatra could not be ruled out.
Considering all these factors, the Commission made it clear to the Gujarat Government that the "VHP yatra should not be allowed to take place''.
Further, it said that "any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred, disharmony, ill-will or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic, will not only vitiate the election process and tarnish the fair democratic traditions of the country, but will also seriously jeopardise the law and order situation conducive for the conduct of free and fair elections in the State''.
Pointing out that maintenance of law and order was the responsibility of the State Government, the Commission said "it expects the State administration to take all such measures under the existing laws as are considered appropriate for maintaining an atmosphere for the conduct of peaceful, free and fair poll even during the run-up period to the elections''.
The State was also directed to take all such measures under the existing laws at its disposal to prevent any yatra, procession, etc. and display and use of such images as these could incite communal tensions and passions and disrupt the law and order situation, thereby affecting the conduct of free and fair elections.
Similarly, preventive and punitive action should be taken against individuals/parties/organisations indulging in communally incendiary and provocative speeches, posters and pamphlets that could incite communal tensions, the Commission said.
In its action-taken report sent to the Commission, the State Government said that as per the Commission's earlier directive, it had transferred all the officials who had served in a particular place for more than four years. Also, all the communal posters, banners and hoardings had been removed as ordered.
The Congress welcomed the Election Commission's decision, saying the EC was performing its duty to ensure free and fair elections in Gujarat.
``This is a welcome step by the Commission. It is performing its duty to ensure free and fair elections by eliminating all causes of tensions which could lead to violence,'' the AICC general secretary, Ambika Soni, said. The Commission, during its recent visit to Gujarat, had witnessed violence, she said and added that the ban was to check such violence by the communal forces.
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