NATIONAL

Punjab stand does not surprise Gujarat

GANDHINAGAR May 9. The Punjab Government's "refusal" to spare its police commandos to tackle communal riots in Gujarat has surprised neither the Government nor the police in the State.

A State Government spokesman claimed the "request'' for the Punjab commandos was a "media creation.'' He maintained that no such formal request had been send by Gujarat and there was no question of it being "rejected'' by the Punjab Government. The State Government was also not aware if the issue was at all discussed between the newly-appointed Security Adviser to the Chief minister, K. P. S. Gill, the former Punjab police chief, and the Union Home Minister, L. K. Advani, in Delhi. But in any case such a request had to be formally communicated by the State Government.

Mr. Gill, who was quoted by the Punjab Chief Minister to have made such a request, called on the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, here late this evening. A senior police official said the rejection by the Punjab Government was on expected lines in the absence of a formal request from the State Government. "Who is Mr. Gill to make such a request?" he asked. The move was uncalled for as the commandos trained to handle terrorist activities could not be as useful in the present situation of communal riots. "But we would have welcomed it if the Punjab commandos came, the State police is already overstretched, and we would have had some respite,'' the official said in a lighter vein.

The reaction from both the dissident Ministers and the Congress was almost on identical lines. Dissatisfied with Mr. Modi's style of functioning, a Minister said there was no need to summon the Punjab commandos and the situation could be brought under control if only the "Chief Minister and the Home Minister had the political will to do so.'' ``The rejection also means that he too feels the same way and is not convinced about the need for sending the commandos. The riots are not the result of the failure of the police administration but is political,'' the Minister commented.

The leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, Naresh Raval, said the State Government could bring the situation under control if only it had the "political will.'' He said the commandos were used for certain special tasks, particularly in combating terrorist activities and not communal riots.

He wondered why the Government was feeling shy to hand over the riot-affected areas to the Army. The people of both the communities had faith in the Army's impartial role and it would be able to control the riots within a fortnight.

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