Modi declines to regret Godhra violence

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New Delhi, Oct 20: While declining to regret the 2002 violence in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra incident, Chief Minister Narendra Modi instead abruptly terminated an interview with a television channel less than five minutes after it began at his Ahmedabad residence yesterday.

Asked why he could not regret the violence that happened in 2002 in Gujarat, Modi said '' What I had to say I have said at that time, and you can find out my statements.'' When interviewer Karan Thapar suggested to him to restate what he had said earlier on the issue, the Chief Minister quippped, '' Not necessary I have to talk about in 2007 everything you want to talk about.''

When told that by not saying again what he may have said earlier on the post-Godhra violence he was allowing an image contrary to the interest of Gujarat to continue, Modi took off the mike and said, ''I'll have to rest. I need some water.'' When the surprised interviewer said, '' Paani''(water), Modi replied '' Dosti bani rahe. bas. (Friendship should continue. That's all.) I'll be happy. You came here. I am happy and thankful to you. I can't do this interview. It's OK your things are. Apne ideas hain aap bolte rahiye aap karte rahiye. (You have your ideas, you keep talking, you keep doing) 3-4 questions I've already enjoyed Nahin (No) please,'' the transcript of the four-and-a-half-minute interview provided by CNN-IBN said. The incomplete interview is slated for telecast 2100 hrs today, the news channel added.

The interview began with an introduction which wondered if the Gujarat Chief Minister had an ''image problem'' and whether he could win another election and become the CM again.

Asked why he is still called a ''mass murderer'' and accused of being ''prejudiced'' against the minorities in spite of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation having declared Gujarat the best administered State and a magazine declaring twice Modi to be the most efficient Chief Minister, he said it were not people but only two or three persons who talk in ''this terminology.'' Further asked if this was the conspiracy of two or three persons only, a baffled Modi quipped ''I have not said so.'' When pressed he indeed said it is only 2 or 3 people, the Chief Minister said ''This is the information I have. It's the people's voice.''

When pointed out that the Supreme Court in September 2003 said they had lost faith in the Gujarat government and in April 2004 the Chief Justice noted he was like a ''modern day Nero who looks the other side when helpless children and innocent women were being burnt,'' the Chief Minister requested the interviewer to go through the judgement and said if there was anything in ''writing'', he would be happy to know everything.

While accepting there was nothing in writing and it was only an observation, Karan Thapar asked if criticism by the Chief Justice did not matter. Modi said, ''If it is in (the) judgement then I'll be happy to give you the answer.'' But he again requested the interviewer to go through the judgement and if there was any such thing in it let the people know it.

Asked if he has an ''image problem'' as tens of millions say Modi is prejudiced against the minorities, the Chief Minister said he had not spent a single minute in cultivating his image because he had been busy with his work and was committed and dedicated to Gujarat.

When pointed out that ''ghost of Godhra still haunts you'' and asked why he had not done more to allay that ''ghost,'' the Chief Minister quipped,''This I give it to the media persons like Karan Thapar. Let them enjoy.'' Having sought and granted the permission to make a suggestion, Thapar asked ''Why can't you say that you regret the killings that happened? Why can't you say may be the government should have done more to protect'' the minorities? To this, Modi said,'' What I had to say I have said at that time, and you can find out my statements.'' When pointed out that by not saying it again, by not letting people hear the message repeatedly he was allowing an image contrary to the interest of Gujarat to continue, Thaper suggested, ''It's in your hands to change it.'' At this moment, Modi took off the mike and terminated the interview, according to the transcript.

Having called off the interview, Modi said, ''Dosti bani rahe.

bas. (Friendship should continue, that's all) I'll be happy. You came here. I am happy and thankful to you. I can't do this interview.'' When repeated pleadings failed to persuade Modi to continue the interview, Thapar again asked why he could not correct his image.

The Chief Minister said, ''This is not the time. Uske liye aap mujhe 2002 mein mile hote, 2003 mein mile hote mein sab kar leta ( For that, you should have met me in 2002, if you had met me in 2003 I could have done that).''

UNI

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