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Tension in Gujarat after deaths in communal violence

Tension prevailed in Dasad village under Unjha taluka of Mehsana district of Gujarat after two people died and 20 were injured in communal violence on November 12. Tension continues in the area as well as in other parts of Gujarat.

Violence broke out in the wake of a rumour that "Muslims had come armed with sticks to beat Hindus" at a temple where people had gathered for celebration.

According to another version, a dog started running around the Ghogh Maharaj temple, which created a lot of confusion. Inexplicably, Hindu and Muslim crowds began pelting each other with stones. Some fired from guns as well.

This brought in the police on the scene, who fired ten rounds of ammunition, lobbed 17 tear gas shells and 12 gas grenades to quell the mob, police chief of Mehsana district, AK Sharma, said.

The two dead came one each from the Hindu and Muslim community, Sharma said, adding the "situation is tense, but under control." An agency report said "at least 16 people from the majority (Hindu) community were taken to Unjha health centre while six from minority (Muslim) community underwent treatment in Mehsana hospital."

Ironically, this village had remained quiet during the two-month long anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat earlier this year. Taking the village as a safe haven some persecuted Muslims from neighbouring villages had migrated to this village.

Now these muhajir Muslims are being accused of having altered the delicate "social balance" and caused the riots. "Ever since these families moved in there have been problems. We even got a request to have these families out of here. A whisper campaign to that effect had already begun, and I think the violence was triggered by that," Sharma said.

Gujarat is still on the edge of a precipice, and state chief minister Narendra Modi has been trying his best to keep it there, right on the precipice of a communal abyss.

North and Central Gujarat are the most vulnerable, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. Modi, with his dozen anti-Muslim remarks a day keeps the tension alive. He has been making insinuations against Muslims and Christians during his several public meetings every day in the course of his Gaurav yatra (pride march) through towns and villages of the state, which started in stages last month.

Nobody knows which "pride" is involved in the march, except the pride of having taught Muslims a "hard lesson" during the two-month long anti-Muslim pogrom in the state earlier this year.

Chief of state Congress Party, Shankarsinh Vaghela said what this man (Modi) has been peddling as pride march is, in fact, a march of shame ó the abiding shame of a chief minister orchestrating a pogrom and being proud of it. Liberals, leftists and common Indians agree with Vaghela.

Modiís remarks are so outlandish and incendiary that they would attract immediate response from Centre in normal situations. However, he goes scot-free because his party, the anti-Muslim Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is leading the ruling coalition at the Centre.

He has been attacking the chief of Congress, the largest and most influential party in the country as an "Italian" Christian. He does not spare even the Pope. He ridicules Muslims and secularists as "sons" of Pakistanís Gen. Musharraf, who is enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the BJP.
Modi crossed all limits of decency and political propriety when he called the powerful Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India, James Lyngdoh, a crypto-Italian, Italian being a term of ridicule. It also has Christian connotations, an anathema to the hardline Hindu nationalists.

Fortunately, Lyngdoh contemptuously dismissed Modiís rant as "despicable menial gossip." Lyngdoh, born a Christian, is an atheist and a tribal from north-east India, not an "Italian" as Modi insinuates, playing on his Christian name.

What Modi had been doing is a serious criminal offence under the secular laws of India. However, because of a lack of political will, and also because of a conspiracy of silence on the part of the Centre ruled by Modiís own party, the law is not allowed to take its normal course.

However, there are important people in India who are demanding action against Modi for his inciting civil strife. Former chief minister of Bihar state Laloo Yadav (now his wife is the chief minister of that state) has requested the Chief Election Commissioner to debar Modi from contesting the coming election for violating the electoral code.

Election law demands that nobody inciting hatred against another community would be allowed to contest an election. Modi fits this description well.

Yadav said on November 12, in Bihar capital Patna, "Modi is indulging in making inflammatory statements detrimental to peace and communal harmony in the riot-hit state. The EC should debar him from contesting elections for violating the model code of conduct."

The CEC is looking closely at his antics. He may initiate action if he thinks Modi has to be reined in. Yadav also demanded that "Modi should be put behind the bars immediately for disturbing peace."

Į MG News Desk

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