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Published in the 16-28 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Gujarat riots: Atal admits BJP men's role

The Milli Gazette Online

New Delhi: Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Jan 27 admitted for the first time that some workers of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had a role in the 2002 sectarian violence in Gujarat.

In an interview to Aaj Tak TV news channel, he said “the BJP tried but failed to prevent the violence that was triggered by the death of 59 Hindu activists in a train fire at Godhra in February 2002. A lot of people including some BJP workers (were involved in the violence) as they were overcome by their emotions," Vajpayee said, commenting on the carnage that occurred when he was prime minister.

But Vajpayee disagreed with a suggestion that the BJP was responsible for the episode. People have different views about it (the violence). People in Gujarat saw it differently and outsiders viewed it differently," he said in the interview. "There was an election after the violence and everyone knows what the results were," he said, referring to the BJP recapturing power in Gujarat under Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Vajpayee said the violence would have been worse had his government not acted quickly.

Reacting to accusations that his government's failure to order a probe into the fire in 2002 had necessitated an investigation now, Vajpayee said the Railway Board had conducted an inquiry in line with its procedures.

The former prime minister said political parties must think about the future and what role they should play in preventing such events. "There is no use conducting a post-mortem on what happened then. 

"Even now political parties are not ready to debate (the violence) threadbare, because elections are hovering over our heads," Vajpayee said, referring to the Banerjee panel's report being politicised in the run-up to assembly elections in three states next month.

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