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Rush to wash stain of riots

Aug. 8: The Maharashtra government has snapped out of a stupor to seek legal opinion on whether the Bombay riot cases against politicians could be reopened.

The politicians who have been indicted by a commission include Shiv Sena leaders Bal Thackeray and Manohar Joshi.

The inaction on the riots, in which 900 people died, had become a sore thumb that stood out following the high-profile sentencing of actor Sanjay Dutt and others in the Bombay blasts that killed 257.

The riots and the blasts were termed “cause and effect” by the Srikrishna Commission that looked into the violence that followed the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992.

The Congress-led Maharashtra government is considering dusting the files after a nudge by Sonia Gandhi and an online campaign.

Led by activist Teesta Setalvad, who spearheaded the legal drive against the Gujarat riots, an online petition carrying the signatures of many citizens is expected to be made public by a citizens’ group in Mumbai tomorrow.

The principal demand of the campaign is to take action against those named by the commission.

Disquiet is also spreading among several minority pockets in Mumbai. Keen to avert the possibility of a backlash, Sonia is reported to have sought an action-taken report from chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

The chief minister has sounded state advocate-general Ravi Kadam on whether the cases could be pursued. The Sena-BJP government had closed several riot cases after dismissing the Srikrishna report as biased against Hindus.

If the government reopens the cases, it is certain to trigger a confrontation with the Sena that could spill on to the streets.

Such an initiative will spoil the rapport the chief minister has been building with Thackeray ever since the Sena broke ranks with the BJP to vote for Pratibha Patil in the presidential election.

Smelling trouble, the Sena has already launched into characteristic sabre-rattling.

The Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, has compared the move to dust the commission report as an attempt to “hang the Hindus” with an eye on Muslim votes.

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