Friday, Aug 15, 2003
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India & World
By Hasan Suroor
In a dramatic change of heart, the ``reconciliation'' argument has been put forward by the Muslim Community Forum, led by Zafar Sareshwala, a Gujarati Muslim businessman who had been in the forefront of the campaign to seek Mr. Modi's prosecution for his alleged role in the Gujarat violence in which several British Muslims were killed. He was also actively involved in pushing the legal case against Mr. Modi for alleged ``crimes against humanity''.But his group now believes that ``reconciliation'' is the way forward, and it has extended a ``warm welcome to the democratically-elected representative of the people of Gujarat.''
Even as several leading Muslim organisations and civil activists announced plans to picket Mr. Modi, Mr. Sareshwala said in a statement: ``The Muslim Community Forum strongly feels that the differences that currently exist between the Muslim community and the establishment need to be bridged at all cost and that reconciliation is the need of the hour.''
Mr. Sareshwala, who has extensive business interests in Gujarat, is co-sponsoring a huge Navratri festival planned by the Modi Government for non-resident Indians next month and his critics believe that his business instincts are behind the turnaround. But he said: ``If you want your grievances to be settled you have to sit down and talk.'' He is among the few who have been invited to meet Mr. Modi who will be hosted by the BJP's supporters in Britain.This is Mr. Modi's first visit to the U.K. after last year's violence, and the British Government made clear that it had nothing to do with the visit. The Foreign Office repeated its concern that the Indian Government had not done enough to prevent and stop the violence.
The Indian Muslim Federation has written to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, saying that Mr. Modi's visit ``should be stopped immediately'', and the Council of Indian Muslims has conveyed its protest to the Foreign Office.
Nearly half-a-dozen cross-community organisations, including the South Asia Solidarity Group, Awaaz, Oxford South Asia Forum and Asian Women Unite, have decided to picket Mr. Modi when he addresses a meeting in Wembley, West London, on Sunday.
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