The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Video to counter carnage criticism

Ahmedabad, Sept. 17: After death by fire, its Trial by Fire.

The yet-to-be-released VCD, a brainchild of chief minister Narendra Modi’s office, is the BJP’s own version of truth to counter the bad press the Gujarat government has been getting since the Godhra carnage.

Its aim is to refute the “pack of lies” reported by the national media to “malign peace-loving Gujaratis”.

The video appears to be a crude attempt to put the blame on the national media for “misreporting” the February 27 train massacre and for deliberately underplaying the state government’s efforts to control the subsequent flare-up. It gives a detailed break-up of the victims of the train carnage, the number of people arrested, rounds fired and FIRs lodged but does not mention the exact number of those killed in the riots.

The BJP has claimed that the Modi government handled the situation effectively by deploying the army within 16 hours of the riots breaking out and saved many by shifting them to safer places. The video even cites figures of preventive arrests, though it does not say how many religious places were damaged.

However, the army was deployed only on the evening of March 1, nearly 36 hours after more than a hundred people had been burnt alive in Naroda Patia and Gulbarg society.

Although the BJP says curfew was imposed as and when required, VHP chief Ashok Singhal’s recent statement in Amritsar punches a hole in the claim. Singhal said 50,000 people were on streets of Ahmedabad on February 28, which shows how effective the state machinery was on that day.

The video claims that the riots did not have any adverse impact on the state’s economy and that foreign investment flow was not hampered. It cited General Motors’ expansion plan, Dutch Shell’s LNC project, the Birla Copper Plant and the Poshitra special economic zone.

The ground reality is that except for General Motors, all the three projects were cleared by the Keshubhai Patel government three years ago, while the special economic zone in Poshitra was announced by Union commerce minister Murasoli Maran in his 1999-2000 Exim policy.

The BJP claims that all 18,000 villages in the state remained peaceful during the riots. The truth is, in 2,000-odd villages, no Muslim family has returned after they fled in early March. Recently, a group of NRIs on a sadhbhavana mission was chased away in a village near Halol, central Gujarat, after they suggested that riot victims be rehabilitated.

In the 20-minute video, the BJP has taken pride in stating that festivals like Muharram and Holi passed off peacefully. The party conveniently refused to take note of the fact that Muslims had decided not to observe Muharram this year. There was not much enthusiasm among Hindus either to celebrate Holi. Most preferred to stay indoors.

Citing another example of normality, the BJP has claimed in the video that 98 per cent students appeared for the board examinations. Even in normal times, there has never been such a high turnout. The party also conveniently glossed over the fact that the examinations had to be conducted in two phases. In riot-affected areas like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar and Himmatnagar, the examinations had to be postponed twice.

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