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Published in the 1-15 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Vajpayee “reassures” Muslims

New Delhi: "Friends, I need your support not because these are election times when we want the support of as many people as possible. Rather, I need it because I have been trying since many years to see that Hindus and Muslims in India walk hand-in-hand, live in brotherhood, help one another, provide each other security and strive together to take the country forward," said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with a renewed sense of hope while flagging off the "Atal Behari Vajpayee Himayat Caravan" here on 21 April.

Atal Behari Vajpayee Himayat Committee was formed recently to extend support to the BJP in the current elections.

To initiate the campaign, the committee members started a bus journey called "Atal Behari Vajpayee Himayat Caravan" which would cover all the constituencies of Uttar Pradesh. The Prime Minister handed over a "chadar" to be offered at the dargah of Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki near Qutub Minar here.

Trying to reassure Muslims Vajpayee said, "Not for greed of votes. Not for some short-term political benefit. What I have been trying sincerely is to make things better for a larger purpose. Firstly, to develop cordial relations with our neighbour. And, secondly, to develop a feeling within the country that we have to live together, and that only by walking together can we build our future. This is the only way we can take the minorities forward, and we can take India forward."

The Prime Minister reiterated that "We are together in believing that there must be brotherly relations in India. We also share the conviction that justice should not only be done to the Muslims but it should also be seen to be done. Muslims should remain secure. There should be no efforts to isolate them. And I also say it to my Muslim brothers and sisters that they too should not consider themselves as aloof and distant. We have to live together, our lives are interwoven, and our future is one… When Muslims are in such large numbers in India, how can our country progress by leaving them behind? And our Muslim brethren are also introspecting and coming to the same conclusion: that only by being together with others, only by walking together with others, they can move ahead, they can achieve progress, and they can realise their potential."

Talking about growing relations with the neighbouring Pakistan, Vajpayee did not forget to remind Muslims that in the just concluded excellent cricket series with Pakistan, Muslim players too were accommodated in the Indian team. "Nobody saw any difference between them and others. All of them took equal part in the team’s success and in celebrating it. All of them wore the same colour. May this colour of brotherhood become deeper and brighter. This is my wish," Mr. Vajpayee said.

The belated realisation which has dawned upon Vajpayee might be true. It could have sounded real and impressive had BJP taken practical steps in this direction during the last five and a half years of its rule. Morever, this assurance flies in his face of BJP’s retaining Narendra Modi in Gujarat after enacting the ghastly anti-Muslim pogrom under his stewardship and directions in spite of being rebuked worldwide. The Supreme Court recently called Modi “Nero”.

— MG Correspondent

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