Flagrant attempts by Pak. to disrupt J&K polls: PM
15 August 2002
NEW DELHI: There have been testing times — the wounds inflicted by terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the horrific communal violence in Gujarat — but India has always stood the test of a secular nation, the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said here today addressing the country from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 55 anniversary of the Independence Day. Delivering his fifth consecutive Independence Day address — and he did not fail to take note of this — the Prime Minister gave a fitting response to the caustic references made to Jammu and Kashmir and the Assembly elections there by the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, on Wednesday. ''Those who call the forthcoming elections in the State farcical should not give us lectures on democracy. Let them take a look at their own track record.'' At the same time, he offered ''to take some more steps'' in the direction of peace, as he had when he undertook the journey to Lahore and then hosted the Agra summit. But for this a conducive environment was necessary. Flagrant attempts by Pakistan to provoke the people in Jammu and Kashmir to boycott elections could not create an atmosphere for meaningful talks. ''Our neighbour claims to oppose terrorism at the international level, but adopts double standards in the context of our region. After facing defeat in wars, it has resorted to cross-border terrorism to grab Kashmir.'' But the State was an integral part of India, and would remain so, he asserted. Promising that the Assembly elections would be ''fully free and fair'' he appealed to voters to exercise their franchise in large numbers to ''demolish the propaganda being conducted from across the border.'' ''We shall make amends for past mistakes'' (A PTI report said that promising to make amends for ''mistakes of the past'', Mr. Vajpayee offered to hold talks with elected representatives and organisations in Jammu and Kashmir on the demand for more powers. In the backdrop of moves to involve the All-Party Hurriyat Conference in the election process, he said, ''I wish to assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that if mistakes have occurred, we shall make amends. For this, we shall talk to the elected representatives and organisations. Discussions will also take place on the demand for more powers to the State.'' ) ''The world cannot accept the massacre of Amarnath pilgrims or the terrorist attack on Parliament, but equally there can be no place in any civilised society for the kind of communal violence witnessed in Gujarat, no matter what the provocation,'' he emphasised. The theme of Kashmir being an integral part of India, that it was not just a ''piece of land'' but a ''test-case of sarva dharma sambhav secularism'' and that India was determined to defeat cross-border terrorism, was expounded by Mr. Vajpayee along expected lines. But on Gujarat, the ''line'' changed somewhat. No longer did he, even remotely, justify the communal killings but said directly that ''peace, communal amity, national unity and integrity'' must be maintained ''even in the most serious and provocative circumstances''. This is contrary to the stance of the Government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party that the communal violence had been provoked (and, therefore, somewhat justified) by the burning to death of passengers of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27. It was perhaps to his own party''s Government and the people in Gujarat that he addressed himself when he emphasised that ''it was the responsibility of the Government and society alike to provide security and equal opportunities to the minorities''. Significantly, for the leader of a party raking up the 500-year-old temple-mosque controversy in Ayodhya, Mr. Vajpayee''s advice to countrymen was: forget the past, look forward to the future (''Beeti tahi bisar de, aage ki sudh le''). The Prime Minister recounted the achievements of the country in food self-sufficiency, information technology and the change from an economy of scarcity to one of surplus, but added there was need for political consensus on all socio-economic issues just as there had been on national security. Growth in many areas had been tardy, but that could be corrected if a billion people decided to achieve their full potential. His views reflected what the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, said in his address on Wednesday that India should aim at becoming a developed nation by 2020. Mr. Vajpayee spelt out a number of new initiatives in the areas of water management and conservation, power reforms, food and homes for the poorest and the most-oppressed and the backward classes. Despite the floods and drought this year, no one would be allowed to die of hunger, he emphasised. In a multi-party system, the ''race for power'' was ''natural'', but it should be within a ''lakshman rekha'' and within the limits of the ''nation first'' principle. Speaking against the backdrop of the petrol pump scandal that has shaken the Government, Mr. Vajpayee said it was important to remember that people expected ''high conduct'' from those who occupied ''high offices''.