The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi-wary Modi calls in the army

Vadodara/New Delhi, May 3: Mohammed Rafiq Vohra, father of two teenagers, was dragged out of his Tata Sierra, stabbed and burnt alive on Tuesday night.

If Vadodara spent a sleepless night with images of Gujarat 2002 flickering before its eyes, morning broke in uneasy calm and the day brought two unusual sights.

Around 2 pm, Narendra Modi, the chief minister who has been accused of not lifting a finger when Gujarat burned in 2002, swept into Vadodara and looked up the injured in a hospital. Then he thundered: “Nobody has the right to take the law in his own hands. I warn rioters, whatever community they belong to, the law will do its duty.”

A few hours later, Modi asked the Centre to send in the army, and by 8 pm, three columns (210 soldiers) had landed in Vadodara, wracked by clashes since Monday after a 300-year-old dargah was demolished. Amid reports of sporadic incidents of violence, a fourth column is being deployed from Ahmedabad and two others are on standby.

Cut to 2002: Modi requisitioned the army only two full days after the Godhra carnage, by when rioting and arson were on at full blast, the magnitude and sweep of which were much more than that in Vadodara.

Then, Modi did venture out to a relief camp, but three months after the riots, that too accompanied by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Between 2002 and 2006, two factors have changed. One, the Centre is no longer ruled by the BJP-led government. Two, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, considered the sword arms that led the charge in 2002, and Modi are not the best of friends any more.

Without naming anyone, Modi said in a statement that “some people with vested interests are unhappy with the manner in which the state was progressing and maintaining peace. These people do not like the path of development that Gujarat is on”.

Modi could have meant any of his political opponents, but it is well known in Gujarat that the RSS is not happy with many of the policies of the state government. But BJP leaders dismissed suggestions that some Bajrang activists could have exploited the situation to put Modi in trouble with the Centre.

The Congress-led Centre also tightened the screws by asking the Gujarat chief secretary to carry out an inquiry and file a report. Initial reports available with Delhi have faulted state officials for aggravating the situation.

Disagreements were on display elsewhere, too, with Gujarat officials claiming the army had been deployed only for a flag march ' which it staged late tonight. But the Centre said the directive to the force “was not just for a flag march”.

The real test will come when night descends. A shop was set on fire late tonight despite the flag march.

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