January 7, 1999
Press Release on media reports about violent incidents in Gujarat
Several reports have appeared in the media, both in India and the USA, about certain violent incidents in recent weeks in the State of Gujarat. Since many of these reports have sensationalized the events, this press release is being issued to put the whole situation in proper perspective.
The incidents of attack on places of religious worship have been widely condemned by all sections in India, in keeping with the country's secular traditions. The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has made it plain that there is no place for religious bigotry in India and that the Government is committed to maintain social amity and peace. The Prime Minister personally condemned the attacks on the Christian community and directed the State Government to take stern action against the elements bent on disturbing communal harmony. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also taken steps to curb the situation and despatched a high-level team to make an on-the-spot inquiry. The report of this team has been received and action is being taken on it to further strengthen law and order arrangements in the area. The Gujarat Home Minister, in-charge of law and order in the State, also visited and camped at the troubled sites to personally supervise the law and order arrangements.
The National Commission for Minorities, a body set up by an Act of Parliament, is fully seized of the situation. The Commission has welcomed Prime Minister's statement and stated that it would go a long way in rebuilding the confidence of the minorities. The Prime Minister will soon be visiting the affected district in Gujarat to assess the situation for himself.
Investigation and prosecution of crimes is proceeding according to law. According to reports, 30 cases of criminal offence have been registered in the last couple of weeks. 116 alleged miscreants have been arrested by the State Police. Furthermore, 44 persons, from whom breach of peace was apprehended were detained in preventive custody.
The State Government has announced relief and payment ex gratia for damage to property, and for rebuilding the structures.
The State Reserve Police have been deployed in the affected areas of the State, and Peace Committees comprising of representatives of various communities have been activated at the district level to restore normalcy rapidly.
Considering the size and population of India, incidents in a localized area when magnified and exaggerated present a very distorted picture. Highly regrettable as these incidents are, the fact remains that both the Central and State Governments have been quick to act to curb undesirable and criminal activity. Government has also made a firm commitment to deal with the culprits to the full extent of the law.
The Christian community in India is a popular and respected section of the Indian people. There is a tradition of amity in regard to this community which will be fully protected. The Christian population numbering nearly 23 million is not under threat, and it will continue to play its due role in the life and development of the nation.