Singh talks unity in fight against terror

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  • Published 28.07.08

Ahmedabad, July 28: Narendra Modi by his side, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went around a jittery Gujarat capital on a healing mission a day after BJP leader L.K. Advani criticised the Centre for being “soft on terror”.

Singh, who met the wounded recovering in three hospitals, chose not to join issue with the BJP leader. Instead, the Prime Minister, fresh from a trust vote victory, sought to win the confidence of Gujarat by promising that the Centre and the state were one in the battle against terror.

The Prime Minister, who had for company Sonia Gandhi and Union home minister Shivraj Patil, praised the citizens of Gujarat for their resilience in the wake of the blasts, which he described as an attempt to “destroy the social fabric and demoralise people”.

The resilience was evident as the people tried to shrug off Saturday’s 16 explosions and get back to their usual routine on a rain-washed Monday morning. Children made their way to schools, office-goers rushed to workplaces and traders were glued to their mobiles as they scrambled to put behind them the horror night which left at least 49 dead and 145 wounded.

Crowds at malls and marketplaces were thin, but the season’s heaviest rain, more than fear, kept away people from otherwise busy places.

The diamond hub in Surat, however, chose to remain closed after the recovery of two cars laden with explosives and detonators yesterday. Another live bomb was defused in the city while police released the sketch of a man who is said to have parked one of the explosive-laden cars.

Investigators made little headway but said they were convinced the blasts were the handiwork of the same group that had carried out similar attacks in Jaipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ajmer and Varanasi in the past few years. “There is little doubt all the incidents are linked,” said an investigator in Surat.

Modi, who travelled with Singh in a black BMW, detailed the steps taken by the government to deal with the crisis. Sonia, Patil and a local Congress leader followed them in a white Safari.

At 3.15pm, Singh arrived at Civil Hospital, where 23 people were killed in an explosion in the parking lot. After Modi briefed the Prime Minister at the blast site, Singh, joined by Sonia and Patil, went to the G4 ward where 21 people are being treated.

Laxman Chudasma, 52, who had come to the hospital to help the victims when the explosives went off, urged the Prime Minister to “rise above party politics to do something concrete to fight terrorism”.

A woman told Sonia to become like Indira Gandhi. Sonia was moved, said Ashok Panjab, who was with her.