Presidential concern at Gujarat incidents
Deve Gowda, Paswan seek Narayanan's intervention

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: President K.R. Narayanan has written two "forwarding letters'' to the government, attaching memoranda submitted to him by organisations that have sought presidential intervention and protested against attacks on members of the Christian community in Gujarat, Karnataka and other parts of the country.

He indicated this on Friday to a Janata Dal (JD) delegation - led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda - which called on him demanding the dismissal of the Gujarat government. The President's secretariat later clarified that these were "forwarding letters'' to the memoranda that were being sent to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) or to the Union home ministry.

It is stated in political circles here that the President has acted correctly, without making a value judgment: He is seen as conveying his concern in a subtle manner. His action, nevertheless, is significant as such memoranda are generally forwarded by the President's secretariat.

On New Year's eve, Mr Narayanan had amended his customary message of greetings to the nation after he received two delegations which called on him to submit memoranda in protest against attacks on Christian establishments in south Gujarat. The President called back his first message in the evening to add his call for tolerance among people of all communities. For good measure, he quoted Swami Vivekananda to embellish his message.

The significance of the message was not lost on the nation, as also the international community, which has received alarming reports of "atrocities'' on members of the Christian community. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, accompanied by home minister L.K. Advani, called on the President on Wednesday and Mr Vajpayee is slated to visit south Gujarat on Sunday.

Political leaders cutting across religious lines and several organisations have in recent days submitted memoranda to Mr Narayanan, seeking his intervention in Gujarat.

When Mr Gowda and former railway minister Ramvilas Paswan and others of the JD delegation met the President he appeared to be concerned over the happenings in Gujarat which have damaged India's image abroad. The delegation also demanded the dismissal of the Gujarat government which has failed to protect minorities. Other members of the delegation were Jaipal Reddy, Madhu Dandavate, Srikant Jena, Devendra Yadav, Ms Promilla Dandavate, Bapu Kaldate and Ranjan Yadav.

Mr Gowda and Mr Paswan gave a detailed account of the first hand information collected by them during their extensive tour of the trouble torn districts of Gujarat to the President. They said that at least 90 churches were demolished by fundamentalist organisations belonging to the Sangh Parivar.

Mr Gowda added that soon after the Babri Masjid demolition, three state governments - Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan - had been dismissed and the court later justified the dismissal saying they had collaborated in the demolition and failed to protect the minorities and the secular fabric of the country.

The JD leaders said the miscreants were confident that they would go scot free as the party patronising them was in power. "It is a clear case of collaboration,'' the JD leaders said. They expressed regret that though the Prime Minister and the home minister had both expressed their displeasure at the incidents, they had not issued a warning to the Gujarat government under Section 355.

Mr Gowda added that when attacks were in full swing, the Prime Minister, instead of visiting the violence affected spots, went on a holiday to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and information and broadcasting minister Pramod Mahajan in a reported statement attacked the minority community warning them against conversions.