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'Who Started The Fire?'

Rough literal translation of the full text of the controversial speech given by the Prime Minister at BJP's National Executive meeting in Goa on April 12, 2002

'Who Started The Fire?'
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Namaskar, Adavniji, our national president Shri Jana Krishnamurtyji, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshiji, Shri Pramod Mahajan, Goa Chief Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar, Deputy Chief Minister Ravi Naik, Shreepad Naik, state party president Laxmikant Parsekar, sisters and brothers...

First of all, greetings on the new year. May the new year be auspicious for us all. Guri Parva is celebrated, wherever there is India, wherever there are Indians, in some form or the other.

The day before, I was in Cambodia -- the old Kamboj state, where grand, sky-high, temples had been constructed in the 10th. and 11th. centuries. Those were Hindu states. The kings were Hindu, the people included non-Hindus too. But there was justice for all. The kings did fight one another. Victories and defeats were part of the game. But in the history dating back many centuries, there is not even one such instance where one Hindu king, while attacking the other, destroyed temples or broke idols. The kings who used to win, would construct another temple. If Lord Vishnu used to be worshipped earlier, worship of Lord Shiva would begin. If Shiva was worshipped, other gods would start getting worshipped. But no king, at the time of the attack, destroyed any temple or broke any idol.

This is our tradition (sanskriti... Culture?) of treating all religions equally (lit: to view all the religions with one vision). But still, charges are being levelled that secularism is under threat. Who are these people levelling these allegations? What does 'secularism' mean for them? When the Muslims had not arrived in India, when the Christians had not stepped foot here, even then India was secular. It is not that it's become secular after their arrival.

They came with their way of worship and they too got a respectful place. They had the right to worship their Lord the way they wished. At that time, no one thought of religious conversions by force, because in our religion (dharma), in our tradition (sanskriti), there is no use for it, there is no purpose for it.

Today, a billion Indians are busy building their futures as per their tradition (sanskriti). Now and then, some small incidents do take place and sometimes they do assume the role of larger incidents too, but if you go to the root of it all, then, you'd see intolerance, a vision of increasing intolerance.

What happened in Gujarat? If the conspiracy to burn alive the innocent, helpless and blameless travellers on the Sabarmati Express had not been hatched, the Gujarat tragedy could have been averted. But this did not happen. People were burnt alive. Who were those people? The government is enquiring into it. The intelligence agencies are gathering all the information. But we must not forget how the Gujarat tragedy began.

The later incidents are condemnable, but who started the fire? How did the fire spread?

Our country is a multi-religious nation, a multi-linguistic country. There are varied forms of worship. We believe in co-existence. We believe in sarva-pantha sambhaav (equal respect for all the ways?). No body should challenge Indian secularism.

I read somewhere in a newspaper that the Congress party has decided not to topple my government. Should I thank them for this or should I say that the grapes are sour? How would the government fall? They toppled it once, but could not form it themselves. Again people voted and again we were given a chance to serve.

For us from Goa to Guwahati, it's the same soil (maaTii ... the poet was rhyming it with Guwahati -- Ed). People living in this soil are one. We do not believe in religious fundamentalism. Today the nation is under threat from terrorism. Wherever I went, the rulers in power, elected rulers, complained that militant Islam is sowing thorns in their way.

Islam has two forms. One Islam is such that tolerates everyone, that preaches the path of truth, that teaches compassion and mercy (dayaa ... empathy?). But the Islam being taken for adopting militancy is such that does not have any space for tolerance. That goes on the slogans of jihad and dreams of casting the whole world in its mould.

You would be amazed to hear, and I too was amazed, that in Singapore some Al-qaida conspirators were caught. Singapore rulers could not even think that Al-qaida would be active in their country, that al-qaida would be conspiring in their country. 15-16 people were caught and the intelligence investigations are on so that the truth can be ascertained. This is happening in Indonesia. This is happening in Malaysia. Wherever there are such Muslims, they do not wish to live together, do not want to mix and mingle with others and instead of spreading their message peacefully, they want to spread their beliefs by terror, by fear, by threatening. The world has woken to this danger.

We have been fighting against terrorism for 20 years. The terrorists tried appropriating Jammu and Kashmir by violent means but we fought back. Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and will remain a part of India. No other country's dream shall be fulfilled. Now the nations of the world have realised what a big mistake they committed, how much they neglected and underplayed it. Now they are waking up, getting grouped together, forming an international coalition and agreement against terrorism.

We tell them by our example that we have a large number of non-Hindus in our country but there's never been any religious repression in our country. We've never discriminated between our own and others. There may be different ways of worship, but there's one God -- though there might be different paths to reach him. Therefore, India's stature is getting enhanced, respect for India is growing.

I also had an opportunity to travel to other countries. Large numbers of Muslims live everywhere and the rulers of these countries are worried lest these Muslims might adopt the fundamentalist path. We've told them to impart proper knowledge of Islam. Teach sciences and other subjects in the madrassas. Teach Islam too. But teachings of co-existence, and non-propagation of faith by sword are very important.

Brothers and sisters, our government is two and a half years old. We've tried changing the image of the country. The country which had a shortage of grain, the country which fulfilled its needs by importing grain, has today, thanks to the conditions created by us, thanks to the farmers' hard work, is exporting grain to other countries, fulfilling the needs of others. We have the foreign exchange, we are surging ahead in science and technology. Our young boys and girls are getting ahead and competing well in the world. India is progressing and getting ahead even in these times of economic recession.

When taxes are levied in the budget, a little bit of hardship is necessarily faced. But we are meeting the necessities out of those taxes. Tasks hitherto ignored, have been undertaken. We wish to construct a national highway from north to south and east to west where traffic can flow unhindered, uninterrupted, and the whole country would be connected via this network.

For Goa, too, we have some development programmes. We've started work on the 13,000 KM long mammoth National Highways Programme. This requires an investment of Rs sixty thousand crores. We shall spend this money. A world-class 4-lane highway would connect the entire country from north to south and east to west.

Goa is proposed to be connected with the north-south corridor and we shall endeavour our best to ensure that this promise is fulfilled. I wish to assure you that for this the National Highway # 17 will be made into a 4-lane highway and we will ensure that this proposal moves forward.

When I last came, I had talked about improving the sewerage system in the coastal-belt. Beach-tourism is affected by it. Arrangements for sewerage are very important. Nature has made Goa into a beautiful place -- by the sea side, scenically beautiful -- and if want more tourists in large numbers, we have to organise facilities, which the state government is making efforts for. I want to assure the state government that where ever help from central government is required -- as much help is required -- it shall be provided for.

Attention is also being paid to the roads in Goa. We are trying to connect the villages to the cities. Goa does not have villages, does not have hilly areas, but it has isolated areas which need to be connected via roads, and it is very important that means of travel be improved. The water problem is worsening in northern Goa. Pollution is becoming a serious problem. If any plan is made for tackling these problems, we shall aid and contribute to implement them.

Goa is again poised for a test. Goa government resigned on its own and proved that those running the government were not greedy for power. When our friends realised that they could not serve in this polluted atmosphere of political horse-trading, they decided to dissolve the assembly.

Now the new assembly shall be elected with your votes, with your wishes. Please form a new government that is stable, corruption-free and that can take Goa to progress. The coming elections will give you an opportunity for that. We, while sitting in Delhi, shall gather the necessary means for you and if necessary, at least send good wishes to you. You can count on that.

Thank you very much.

Namaskar.

(Rough literal translation. Please feel free to point out errors)


Postscript:

In the course of a debate in Lok Sabha, while taking exception to the above speech, Somnath Chatterjee pointed out:

It is not a recent aberration of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We are thankful to Shri Rajdeep Sardesai for finding out the speech of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivered in Parliament in 1970. He said:

"Whatever the reason, our Muslim brethren are getting more and more communal, and as a reaction Hindus are getting more and more aggressive. Nobody made the Hindus aggressive. If you want to give the credit for this to us, (‘us’ means, Hindus) we are willing to take it. But Hindus will no more take a beating in this country. Hindus will not start, Hindus will not initiate. If you promote Muslim communalism, the other feeling will run high. Communalism is like a double-edged sword, it acts both ways. "

This was delivered by him in 1970 in this House. He further said:

"I agree, the feeling of the revenge is not good. We cannot allow any individual to take the law in his hands. But will this rule apply only to Hindus? Will it not apply to Muslims?"

Incidentally, during the same debate, Mr Vajpayee repeated the operative part of his April 12 Goa speech on May 1, 2002 in Lok Sabha. He was charged with misleading the house as the video tape of his speech made at Goa does not contain the word "such" -- the PM had actually merely said "musalmaan" and the PMO while issuing a transcript of the speech had prefixed it with "aise" -- thus "Muslims" became "such Muslims" in the above transcript of the speech that is now being called the "corrected transcript".

Later, on May 16, the speaker disallowed the notice of question of privilege of Shri Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi alleging the Prime Minister misled the House on 1.05.2002 while intervening in the discussion on the motion regarding Gujarat situation:

SHRI PRIYA RANJAN DASMUNSI (RAIGANJ): Mr. Speaker, Sir, I gave a privilege notice against the hon. Prime Minister. When a privilege notice is given, it should be conveyed to the hon. Member concerned with a note whether it is allowed or disallowed. That is the tradition. When a privilege notice was given against the hon. Minister of Home Affairs, the hon. Minister himself, from the Ministry, conveyed to the hon. Member concerned about the status and it was disallowed. If it has been accepted, fair enough, you can say so; if not, I should have the privilege to know and I should be told on what grounds it was disallowed. This is the minimum a member could expect. I found from the book by Kaul and Shakder that this has always been the practice. Therefore, I would urge upon you to inform me of the status of the privilege notice. I should get to know whether it is allowed or disallowed. Whether it is right or wrong, the status of the notice should be provided to the Member concerned.

MR. SPEAKER: I have gone through the privilege notice given by Shri Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and also I have received a reply from the hon. Prime Minister. I would like to give the ruling on the privilege notice right now.

Shri Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi gave a notice of question of privilege on 9th May, 2002 alleging that the Prime Minister had misled the House on 1st May, 2002 while intervening in the discussion on the motion regarding Gujarat situation. I had called for the comments of the Prime Minister on the notice of Shri Dasmunsi which have since been received.

Shri Dasmunsi had stated in his notice that the Prime Minister, while seeking to clarify misgivings about certain portions of a public speech made by him at Goa, stated on the floor of the House and I quote:

"Whatever I said about Islam is as follows… Wherever such Muslims live, they tend not to live in co-existence with others, not to mingle with others; instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats".

Shri Dasmunsi contended that in the video recording of the speech of the Prime Minister made by him at Goa, the word "such" had not been used before the word "Muslims" and by this interpolation an attempt was made to alter the meaning of the sentence. Shri Dasmunshi alleged that this amounted to misleading the House by the hon. Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister, while admitting that the video tape of his speech made at Goa does not contain the word "such", has stated that

"no one who reads my entire speech, and takes note of the tribute I have paid to the tolerant and compassionate teachings of Islam, can be in any doubt that my reference in the second paragraph is only to followers of the militant Islam."

A clarificatory note/statement to this effect was issued by the Prime Minister on 14th April, 2002 and the Prime Minister’s Office also released the entire text of his speech to the media with necessary correction. The Prime Minister has also stated that "It is this corrected version from which I read out the relevant paragraphs while speaking on the Gujarat situation in the early hours of May 1, 2002."

I am inclined to accept the clarification given by the Prime Minister. No question of privilege is, therefore, involved in the matter. The notice of Shri Dasmunsi is disallowed.

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