Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that he did “absolutely the right thing” during the 2002 riots and describing himself as a “Hindu nationalist” has come in for strong criticism from several quarters.

When asked by Reuters in an interview if he regretted the killings during the riots, Mr. Modi’s said that even if a “puppy comes under the wheel” of a car, one felt sad. This evoked particularly sharp condemnation with several groups accusing him of comparing Muslims to dogs.

Editor of Nai Duniya Shahid Siddiqui and former Officer on Special Duty with the Sachar Committee Syed Zafar Mahmood condemned the alleged statement terming it “in bad taste” and demanded that the Chief Minister should “apologise to the nation”.

‘Modi was showing compassion’

Zafar Sareshwala, noted Ahmedabad-based industrialist, however, defended Mr. Modi, saying he was genuinely trying to express his sadness.

“By his statement on ‘puppy’, Mr. Modi was just trying to show compassion towards the victims of the post-Godhra riots. He has expressed regret and sadness at 2002 post-Godhra riots several times during personal meetings. He is a changed man and no longer the Modi of 2002,” said Mr. Sareshwala, a critic-turned-admirer of Mr. Modi.

On Mr. Modi’s statement that he was given a clean bill by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, Mr. Siddiqui said: “SIT cannot give Mr. Modi a clean chit because it is out of its mandate. Courts deliver justice and not SIT. For the record the apex court never gave him a clean chit.”

Mr. Mahmood, who had made a Power Point presentation before Mr. Modi highlighting the “injustice” to Muslims during 2002 riots, said: “The entire country was hurt by what happened in 2002 and the statement by him further aggravates the sense of hurt.”

Mr. Modi’s office, however, issued a clarification alleging that he was misquoted on ‘puppy death.’ “There has been a gross distortion and deliberate misinterpretation of a statement by Mr. Modi during a recent interview…His actual statement to this effect was – “it is natural for anyone who is human, in the first place, whether a Chief Minister or not, to feel aggrieved at such a loss.”

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