September 17th, 2011
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Vajpayee’s letter to haunt Modi

vajpayeeNew Delhi: “It is possible that, for various reasons, the teams involved in work have assessed the damages on the lower side. In the interest of justice and fair play, it will be expedient to conduct test checks in selected areas. If the test checks do confirm under-assessment, the state government will reassess the damages in the areas with large-scale complaints,” wrote Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee  in a letter dated June 1, 2002,  to the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

The letter reveals his  concern regarding the fragile situation in Gujarat at the time of the communal riots of 2002. Vajpayee further said, “I have also been informed that in a large number of cases, the relatives of the dead are yet to be paid the ex gratia because bodies are yet to be identified and, also, applications regarding missing persons are yet to be disposed off. The inordinate delay in the disbursement of ex gratia payments is a matter of concern.” The then Prime Minister argued that taking DNA samples and thereby establishing identities would be a time-consuming process “leading to further unacceptable delay”.

According to the letter Vajpayee was concerned about the rehabilitaion of the riot victims. “It is natural that the residents of the worst-affected areas may be reluctant to return to their original places of residence and demand their relocation in safer areas. Ideally, an atmosphere should be created whereby these people gain enough confidence to resettle at the original place of residence,”  he said. Particularly in the worst-hit areas like Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad and Lunawada in Panchamahal, active government support during their relocation will only protect them from unscrupulous elements”.

“Needless to say that undue influence by such elements will only exacerbate the already complicated situation,” he pointed out. This letter was dispatched three months after the Godhra incident and the post Godhra riots. It came almost two months after Vajpayee’s famous advice to Narendra Modi that as a chief minister he must adhere to “Raj dharma”, and never discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion.

Vajpayee’s letter obtained through an RTI application showed that a Prime Minister who seldom relied on detailed correspondence with chief ministers thought it necessary to interfere in the affairs of Gujarat. The tenor of the letter makes it clear that the then PM was concerned if enough was being done for relief and if a sense of assurance and security was being really conveyed to those who had fled and taken up shelter in the makeshift camps. Narendra Modi goes on a three-day fast for “peace, unity and harmony” in his state, an unpublished letter addressed to him almost nine years ago by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may come back to haunt him.





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