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Gujarat violence a 'tragic aberration': Vajpayee

November 07, 2003 08:41 IST

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has condemned the violence in Gujarat that followed the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra last February in which 59 karsevaks were killed.

Vajpayee said that those found guilty of carrying out the atrocities during the riots will be punished and 'justice will be not only seen to be done, it will be done'.

"There is no doubt that those perpetrating in such violence should be punished. Our public, media and judiciary are following it closely. Justice will not only seen to be done, it will be done," Vajpayee told the Financial Times.

In a wide-ranging interview, Vajpayee also expressed 'disappointment' with Pakistan's failure to take steps to dismantle 'the infrastructure of cross-border terrorism'. But the prime minister said he would stick to his 'step-by-step' approach to normalising relations with Pakistan.

Vajpayee's remarks on last year's Gujarat riots -- in which over 1,000 people were killed -- are his strongest condemnation so far of the violence.

They are also likely to be interpreted as a strong signal of support for the Supreme Court, which in September felt the state government was attempting to deny justice to the victims of the communal riots.

"The violence in Gujarat was a tragic aberration and we have condemned it unequivocally," Vajpayee said. "It is important to remember that these tragic incidents remain localised  -- the secular fabric of India remains intact."

The prime minister's comments are also likely to be taken as a sign that he intends to avoid an overt use of the 'communal card' at the next general election.

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