The bitterness beneath

The terrorist attack has worsened the tension already prevalent in Gujarat.

SOON AFTER the Akshardham attack, the refugee camps were full once again in Ahmedabad and other areas. The VHP had called a bandh and the minorities just left their homes, for the relative safety of these camps. And this Navratri, the revelry is likely to be subdued. Parents are too scared to let their sons and daughters stay out all night, singing and dancing as is the practice during the nine days. The organisers of major "Garba" festivals too have announced cancellations of programmes and the police plan to stop the festivities by 11 every night. Diwali, a fortnight later, may be no better. This is Gujarat for you now.

In the days that followed the temple attack, the BJP high command issued a stern warning against yet another round of violence.

The party also dissociated itself from the VHP bandh call and the Narendra Modi administration was asked to deploy army and paramilitary forces in large numbers in the sensitive localities. The Defence Minister, George Fernandes, was dispatched to Gandhinagar to maintain a close watch and take spot decisions in case of violence.

The Congress under the new president, Shankarsinh Waghela, an old BJP hand, gave a hurried call for a "Gujarat bandh" the very day after the terrorist strike. Though the bandh was a flop particularly compared to the success the VHP achieved the next day, it helped to send a message loud and clear that the Congress too "cared" for the Hindus.

The BJP has other problems too. The "Patels" are restive. The "Patels", who were already unhappy with the way Keshubhai Patel was forced to make way for Mr. Modi as Chief Minister, constitute the largest chunk among the followers of the Swaminarayan sect which runs the Akshardham temple.

The terrorist strike has worsened the tension in a State already reeling under the communal carnage post-Godhra.

The State's trade and industry circles reflect the situation. According to trade circles, many of the industrial houses planning to set up units in Gujarat are having second thoughts and even some of the existing business groups are exploring possibilities of moving out.

The State Government authorities, however, do not believe that the communal carnage followed by the Akshardham attack will leave such a lasting impact. — M.D.

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