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Gujarat riots neither engineered nor a blot: Bhandari

Saturday 14 May 2005

New Delhi, May. 14 (PTI): Former Gujarat Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari, who had created a political flutter by criticising Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and the BJP leadership for failure to control the post-Godhra violence, today spoke in contradictory terms saying on the one hand that the riots were "neither engineered nor a blot" but at the same time suggested an inquiry into the events.

He said the riots were a "spontaneous reaction" to the Godhra train incident in which 58 ’Ram Sewaks’ were killed and the "delay" in the administration’s response was a "question of judgment" as "it was not deliberate".

The 84-year-old BJP veteran, who was Governor during the riots, told PTI that the first day’s "reaction could be understood as most of the corpses (of Godhra) were passing through Ahmedabad and there was a provocation".

Asked about his demand for a "thorough" probe, he said,"it should be found out where the lacunae was. Whether the administration was unprepared or there was lack of information or whether there was a time gap and whether pre-emptive steps could be taken".

Seeking to defend the Chief Minister, he said, "Modi was in the midst of the whole thing, controlling the situation. The delay was a question of judgment. There was nothing deliberate. Even the delay could have been forethought. Without any evidence you cannot blame it on somebody. Only after an inquiry can it be said."

Bhandari had dropped a bombshell in a magazine interview on Thursday by comparing the riots with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and accusing Modi of taking the violence "lightly".

Asked why he had remained a "mute spectator," he said, "I was in touch with the State Government and they were trying to take steps. I saw to it that the steps were expedited but trouble had started at some place before the police reached. I was satisfied with the Government’s response and hence there was no question of giving it any direction".

Dismissing suggestions that the violence was "state sponsored" as alleged by the CPI (M), he said, "there is no question of it being engineered. It was a spontaneous response. Thousands of people were moving in groups".

On his remarks that the removal of the controversial Chief Minister was one of the ways which could have prevented the situation from deteriorating, he said, "I just said there were so many ways of tackling the situation. It could have also been considered, if thought necessary".

Denying that he had equated the post-Godhra riots with Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, he said, "I just said even today Gandhi’s assassination is being used as was being done for the last 60 years but it has lost its appeal. Similarly, this issue would also be raised but now itself the argument has lost its appeal".

On the controversy raked up by RSS chief K S Sudarshan’s remarks on leadership in the BJP, Bhandari said such issues should not be discussed in public and the RSS should deal with "general principles not individuals." Even at the risk of organisational deficiencies as far as possible youngsters should be encouraged, he said.

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