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Antony brokers peace in Marad
George Iype in Kochi | October 06, 2003 16:43 IST
Some 400 Muslim families who fled the coastal village of Marad, northern Kerala, are all set to return thanks to a peace plan chalked out by Chief Minister A K Antony.
The CM, who termed his initiative as "something that the entire country should follow", made Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian Muslim League members sign an agreement allowing the residents of Marad to live in peace.
Nine people -- eight Hindus and a Muslim -- were killed and several injured when a mob of around 50 armed with swords, knives and country-made bombs attacked Marad on May 2.
Since then, Marad had been a problem for the government.
Hindu groups -- prominent among them the Araya Samajam -- said they would not allow the Muslim families to return until the government gave in to their demands, which included a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the killings and Rs10 lakh compensation to the families of the Hindu victims.
After a series of meetings with the Hindu and Muslims leaders on Saturday and Sunday, the CM announced that the two parties had come to an understanding.
As per the agreement, the government will pay Rs10 lakh each to the dependents of those killed; Rs5 lakh to those who were seriously injured; and Rs3 lakh to those who sustained minor injuries.
One member from the family of the dead will be given a government job; the government has also agreed to a CBI inquiry.
The government's fisheries department will, after evaluating losses, extend financial assistance to those who lost their houses and implements. The government will also implement a special development package focussing on drinking water supply, health, electricity, roads and construction of a seawall.
All cases against those who had participated in agitations relating to the killings will be withdrawn.
"This is a major breakthrough for communal peace in Marad. We are very happy with the government's peace initiative," BJP state general secretary P P Mukundan told rediff.com
Araya Samajam leaders said they were also satisfied. "We will now work with the government to restore peace in Marad. We will not block the rehabilitation of the displaced people," party secretary T Suresh told rediff.com
But Antony's rivals in his party, the Congress, and some opposition leaders panned the initiative. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Muralidharan, a critic of Antony, said the CM had succumbed to pressure from the Sangh Parivar.
"I do not understand why the Antony government now wants to order a CBI inquiry into the incident, some five months after the massacre," he said.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist said the people of Kerala were "appalled" by the package.
"There is nothing in Antony's peace proposals to show that he wants peace and harmony in Marad," CPI-M leader V S Achuthanandan said.
More reports from Kerala