03/23/2007, 00.00
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Hindu fundamentalists slam plan to pay additional compensation to victims of Gujarat riots

by Nirmala Carvalho
India’s central government wants to provide additional aid to victims of the 2002 Gujarat massacre, but the decision draws sharp criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party which accuses the government of trying to buy Muslim votes in an upcoming state election.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – A plan by India’s federal government to compensate victims of the 2002 massacres in Gujarat has drawn sharp criticism. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the central government of playing politics ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Five years after sectarian violence left thousands dead, New Delhi has decided to compensate victims’ families on top of what the state government has already paid out.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government wants to give 350,000 rupees to each next of kin of those killed, Information Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters. Beneficiaries include claimants not included by the state government in its own victims list.

In addition to financial aid, people who lost parents will be given priority in public sector employment, whilst those who lost their job will be helped in finding a new one or will receive a pension.

But for the BJP the government is just trying to curry favour with Muslims in view of elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh next November.

In today’s session of the Gujarat legislature, members of the ruling BJP caused havoc forcing Speaker Mangal das Patel to adjourn for 15 minutes, then suspend the assembly till recess.

BJP members engaged in filibustering claiming that compensation will only benefit Muslims. Instead, they want victims from the attack against the Akshardham Temple to be compensated as well.

Sectarian clashes between Muslims and Hindus occurred in 1992 when the latter stormed and demolished the Babri mosque, alleging it was built on top of god Rama’s birthplace, in order to build a Hindu temple.

Since then tensions have been running high until February 27, 2002, when they turned violent. A train that had stopped in Godhra caught fire with 59 passengers dying in the flames. Hindu fundamentalists blamed the state’s Muslims for the incident. In the ensuing clashes 1,169 people were killed according to the official tally, mostly Muslim.

The state government, which was also run by the BJP at the time, was severely criticised for failing to properly deal with the rioters and render justice to the victims.

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