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Muslims to welcome Advani's yatra, says Gujarat minister
Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad | April 05, 2006 15:02 IST
Gujarat's Minister of State for Home Amit Shah told rediff.com that Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart Lal Kishenchand Advani's yatra, which sets off on Thursday, will neither create communal tension nor pose a security problem.
Strongly denying the charge that the yatra will add to the fear among Muslims, Shah said many Muslims from Juhapura in his constituency have come forward to greet Advani on his arrival at Ahmedabad, his first overnight stay.
Shah claimed that all arrangements were in place and the party machinery was fully geared to make sure the first phase of Advani's yatra is successful.
Shah refused to compare the current yatra with Advani's previous yatras.
"We can say with confidence that the issues raised in the yatra will be responded to well by the people," he said.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the Gujarat unit of the BJP have been hard at work preparing for the rath yatra since one month. The party has roped in the state ministers, its legislators and members of Parliament who have each been given a 15-km stretch of the yatra's path to supervise.
BJP MP Jayant Barot, an excellent organiser, and former legislator Kamlesh Patel are supervising the whole affair.
Shah is confident Advani's yatra will not face any trouble because in the last three years, after the communal riots sparked off by the Godhra train carnage, the law and order situation in the state has been normal. Some even say "amazingly normal", in view of the statistics the Gujarat police has provided: Less than 10 incidents of private firing in the state while 27 criminals have died in 37 encounters.
Sources in the state home department claim that after the communal riots of 2002, a new trend has emerged, with more and more Gujarati Muslims seeking their children's education in regular schools; consequently, the rate of new admissions in madrassas has fallen; and even the number of anti-social elements from the Muslim community are on the decline compared to the previous decade.
The BJP, however, is not taking the threat perception lightly. Advani will be surrounded by some 100 policeman all the time while on the road.
In Ahmedabad his route will be covered by more than 3,000 policemen.
BJP leaders point out that Advani has been provided the highest security since15 years, so his security can't be made an issue by the Congress to scuttle the yatra.
The United Progressive Alliance government offered him bullet-proof cover just five days before the yatra, although it was announced more than a month ago.
On Tuesday night, more than 22 ministers from Modi's cabinet were busy making last-minute arrangements to mobilise people -- from the teachers union to the co-operative sector to the BJP-affiliated associations. The ministers ended their day at 2 am.
"Advaniji deserves our time and energy," remarked a minister.