Wednesday, May 08, 2002
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By Our Special Correspondent
The issue was raised during zero hour by Somnath Chatterjee of the CPI (M) and supported by the rest of the Opposition. Taking advantage of the Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani's presence in the House, Mr. Chatterjee drew the Government's attention to the latest round of violence that has resulted in the killing of those returning to their homes from relief camps.
He cited media reports to counter the Government's claim that people were returning to their homes.
Mr. Chatterjee demanded that Mr. Advani inform the House what specific instructions were sent to the Gujarat Government in the exercise of Article 355 of the Constitution and what was the brief of the new Security Adviser to the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, K. P. S. Gill.
In his reply, Mr. Advani limited himself to saying that the Government was conscious of its duty under Article 355 and prepared to discharge it. The Centre would do everything possible to help in the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
His reply did not satisfy the Opposition which walked out of the House.
Earlier in the day, the leaders of the non-Congress Opposition parties, their ranks bolstered by the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party, met at Mr. Chatterjee's residence to work out their strategy on the issue.
They included Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Raghuvansh Prasad (RJD), the former Prime Minister, H. D. Deve Gowda (JD-S), Jai Narayan Prasad `Nishad' (Lok Janshakti), Ajoy Chakraborty (CPI), Abani Roy (RSP) and Debabrata Biswas (AIFB).
The leaders decided to keep the focus on the violence in Gujarat and demand for Central intervention under Article 355. They also decided to continue ``boycotting'' the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, in Parliament.
Briefing correspondents, Mr. Chatterjee said after the meeting that the non-Congress Opposition leaders would coordinate their action on Gujarat. In pursuance of the objective, he had also called on the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, who had agreed to support the move.
Contending that the Government was obliged to act since it had adopted the Opposition-sponsored motion in the Rajya Sabha under an Article applied in emergency situations, he said "the Government has been directed by the Rajya Sabha to take steps.''
Referring to the current developments in Gujarat, he said that irrespective of all the action, the State Government was pursuing its own agenda and mounting pressure for winding up the relief camps.
"Where will the people in relief camps go,'' Mr. Chatterjee asked adding that in some instances, Muslims who tried to go back to their villages were being intimidated.
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