The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror shield masks Godhra
- BJP for conversion ban, madarsa scan

Ahmedabad, Dec. 1: The BJP has balked at putting Godhra down in black and white, preferring to pack its Gujarat manifesto with pet themes that cover a ban on forcible conversions, survey of madarsas and a citizens’ shield against terrorism.

The dominant slogan of the election charter has conferred upon the BJP the title of the “saviour of five crore Gujaratis”, playing on the signature tune — Gujarat gaurav (pride) — scored by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani at the campaign kick-off yesterday.

The manifesto makes no mention of the Godhra train carnage — considered the undeclared poll plank of the BJP — and the riots that followed.

The party’s state unit was keen to ensure that the election charter make some reference to Godhra — as most campaigners have been doing during public rallies — but the Central leadership advised caution, a senior BJP leader said.

Instead, the 16-page glossy booklet focuses on the threat from across the border and lists a string of steps to make Gujarat a secure state, entrusting a prospective chief minister with the preserve of Advani, who oversees internal security as Union home minister.

Asked about the absence of Godhra, caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi said: “No political party pledges to enact riots in a manifesto. There is only a resolve to give security. It is unfortunate that the riots have not gone away from the minds of some people who are interested in keeping Gujarat aflame. We will not allow that.”

En route to the “secure-Gujarat” goal, the party has pledged to tackle on a priority basis some “concerns” that have been identified as conversions, terrorism and madarsas, “which are increasing by leaps and bounds”.

Explaining the finer points of the manifesto, Modi said if his party is voted back to power, it will enact a law to prevent forcible religious conversions.

“We will frame the law to prevent conversions in the state. We will study the law already in force in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh and bring the anti-conversion law to stop forcible conversions for fear, lust and greed. It is because of these factors that people are forced to change their religion,” he said.

A new BJP government will conduct a “detailed study” of madarsas to ensure that the development of children who study there is “consistent with Gujarat’s development in the 21st Century”.

The party has also proposed a Sudarshan Suraksha Kavach movement — an anti-terrorism scheme under which youths will be trained to use arms and citizen’s vigilante groups will be formed in border villages that will be named Shakti Grams.

A second line of defence — to be called Gram Rakshak Dal —will be created for the border areas. Elsewhere in the state, a new state commando force will counter terrorism.


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