DELHI IN JOINT PEACE PLEA 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 1.03.02
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New Delhi, March 1 :    New Delhi, March 1:  Setting aside suspicions about the Vajpayee government's will to control retaliatory attacks in Gujarat, the Opposition today joined the ruling coalition in issuing a joint appeal for restraint. At the suggestion of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, leaders of the two sides signed an appeal urging people of all communities to stop the violence in Gujarat. The decision was taken at a one-and-a-half hour meeting in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's residence. "We urge the people to isolate the perpetrators of violence and defeat their sinister designs. It is our collective responsibility to promote brotherhood and national unity at all costs," read the appeal, signed by Vajpayee, Sonia, home minister L.K. Advani, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, the BSP's Mayavati, Telugu Desam leader Yerran Naidu, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the CPM's Harkishen Singh Surjeet and the CPI's A.B. Bardhan. Sources said the BJP top brass looked "worried and downcast". The Opposition demanded a CBI inquiry into the Godhra carnage, saying a judicial probe instituted by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has little credibility, would not go down well. "We appeal to the people of Gujarat, the Hindus, Muslims and those belonging to other communities to maintain peace and communal harmony," the signed statement said. Rare as the gesture was, signalling a rallying of political forces at a time of crisis, the Opposition remained unconvinced by government explanations on why the killings continued for two days in full view of police. Earlier, Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said: "Any state government with the minimum sense could have anticipated the reaction. But the Modi government failed miserably." The CPM's Somnath Chatterjee condemned the governments at the Centre and the state for "wilful" inaction. "It is not just a failure of the government to control the situation. They deliberately allowed it to get out of hand," Chatterjee said. At the meeting, all the leaders denounced the communal role played by Gujarat police.