New Delhi: A nationalist party’s prime ministerial candidate on Friday rejected criticism that he did not do enough to prevent the killings of nearly 1,000 Muslims during riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002.
Narendra Modi, the top state elected official, said in his blog that he was shaken to the core by the violence and his government had responded to the violence more swiftly and decisively than had been done in any previous Hindu-Muslim riots in India.
He is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate for national elections to be held before May.
“’Grief’, ‘Sadness’, ‘Misery’, ‘Pain’, ‘Anguish’, ‘Agony’ – mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity,” he wrote.
India’s Information Minister Manish Tewari, a Congress party leader, said Modi had taken 11 years to get his emotions together “but still not a word of regret.”
Political rivals and human rights groups have accused Modi of looking the other way while his state suffered from one of India’s worst outbreaks of religious violence. They have been demanding an apology from Modi.
The riots occurred after a fire killed 60 passengers on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims. Hindus blamed the deaths on Muslims, but the cause of the blaze remains unclear.
Meanwhile, the BJP Friday hit out at the US for denial of visa to Modi, saying to proclaim the Gujarat Chief Minister guilty even when there was no evidence against him despite several probes amounts to “immature diplomacy” and sets a precedent for a “reciprocal” response.
The BJP’s attack came a day after a Gujarat court gave clean chit to Narendra Modi in 2002 riots case.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said the American stance on the issue has clearly been one determined by their ‘kangaroo court’ and asked it to reflect on the “untenable situation”.
“The American stance on the issue has clearly been one determined by their ‘kangaroo court’. To proclaim Modi guilty even when there was no evidence against him despite investigations and re-investigation amounts to immature diplomacy.
“It constitutes interference in India’s internal affairs. This myopic American stance has the potential of recoiling back at them. It also sets a precedent for a reciprocal response. It is time Americans reflect on how they have boxed themselves into this untenable situation,” Jaitley said.
“My personal advice to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has been that he should not apply for a US visa,” he said. Modi has not applied for US visa since 2005 after being denied it once.
The extent to which false propaganda led to the subversion of debate on this issue needs to be introspected, he said.