Modi voices ‘grief’ at 2002 Gujarat riots

Modi says his government reacted more swiftly and decisively to the violence than in any previous riots in the country..

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 27 Dec 2013, 7:45 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:25 PM

India’s fiery opposition candidate for premier, Narendra Modi, on Friday voiced his “grief” and “misery” over deadly 2002 anti-Muslim riots that swept his home state of Gujarat after he became chief minister.

Modi, in his frankest statement to date about the riots, said in a blog he was “shaken to the core” by the violence in which as many as 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, were hacked, burnt and shot to death, according to human rights activists.

“Grief, sadness, misery, pain, anguish, agony — mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity,” Modi, named by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its candidate for prime minister, wrote.

“This is the first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone thorugh in those days at a personal level,” he added.

Modi’s statement comes ahead of general election expected in May in which his leadership of the state during the riots remains a contentious issue.

The 64-year-old, tipped in opinion polls to be India’s next premier, has been accused of being slow in seeking to stamp out the violence.

But Modi said his government reacted “more swiftly and decisively to the violence than ever done before in any previous riots in the country”.

The riots erupted in February 2002 after a train carrying Hindu devotees was torched in Gujarat, prompting a wave of Hindu-led reprisal attacks against Muslims.

A 2005 inquiry concluded the train fire was accidental.

Modi’s statements came a day after a Gujarat court found no evidence that he conspired with other government officials to stoke the violence.

“Yesterday’s (Thursday’s) judgement culminated a process of unprecedented scrutiny,” Modi said.

“Gujarat’s 12 years of trial by the fire have finally drawn to an end. I feel liberated and at peace,” he said.

The ruling was a boost to Modi, who is serving his fourth term as Gujarat chief minister, who leads in opinion polls just months before the general election.

The magistrate’s court upheld a decision clearing Modi of responsibility in the so-called Gulberg Society massacre in which a former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among scores of Muslims burnt alive when a Hindu mob torched a housing colony.

Modi has been campaigning furiously to paint himself as a pro-business reformer who can revive the fortunes of the world’s largest democracy.

But he remains toxic in the eyes of India’s Muslim minority which accounts for around 13 per cent of the population but is much larger in politically vital states such as Uttar Pradesh in the north.

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