08/28/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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Gujarat government to rebuild mosques destroyed during 2002 anti-Islamic pogrom

Authorities will present the financing and restoration plan by October 1. Over 2 thousand Muslims and Hindu extremists destroyed about 535 places of worship during massacre. Local Islamic community sees plan as move by chief minister Narendra Modi to ingratiate himself with them ahead of elections.

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) - The Gujarat government will fund the restoration and rebuilding of mosques destroyed during the 2002 riots between Hindus and Muslims. The move was announced in an official note sent to the Supreme Court. After 10 years of legal battles, the sudden turnabout decided by the chief minister Narendra Modi has raised the suspicious Islamic community, which sees it as a strategic move ahead of the general elections of 2014.

The state government assured the court it would draw up the scheme by the next hearing on October 1 and show it to the court and the original petitioner, the Islamic Relief Committee-Gujarat (IRCG).

"We'll wait for what the government comes up with, but this is clearly an attempt to remove the taint on the Modi administration," said ICRG chairman Shakeel Ahmed.

In 2003, the IRGC turned to the High Court of Gujarat to ask the state government to repair the 535 damaged places of worship, mostly mosques, claiming that the state was the guardian of the life and property of all citizens and had failed miserably in protecting sacred sites. However, Modi and his government have always said that a secular state is not entitled to fund the restoration of religious property.

On 27 February 2002 a group of Muslims in Godhra attacked and set fire to the Sabarmati Express, with Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, the site of an ancient mosque confiscated years ago by Hindus. The attack killed 58 people and triggered violent inter-religious riots throughout the state. The Islamic community paid the highest price, with nearly 2 thousand victims. Modi - a member of the ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and even then chief minister - has always been accused of conspiring in the massacres.

 

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