In the perennial
battleground of Iraq lies a vibrant society which was once the hope and
pride of the Middle East. India Today's
Ashok Malik travels to the
dream that died. Guns
Conclave concludes on a high note. Al Gore, Stanley Fischer and other world
leaders listen and are heard. Catch up on the highlights. Take
me to Conclave now
ISSUE NOVEMBER 4, 2002
NEWSNOTES: FIRST TAKE
Rocky Road to Islamabad
prime minister A.B. Vajpayee attending the SAARC summit in Islamabad or
not? The confusion arose when Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay
Singh announced that the prime minister would attend. External Affairs
Minister Yashwant Sinha pulled up Singh for speaking out of turn but South
Block's embarrassment continued when Defence Minister George Fernandes
made a similar statement.
CAN AND ABLE: Mentally challenged
children in Delhi prepare for the Games
Delhi's dilemma is that it does not want to signal that relations with
Islamabad are "normal". Yet, it does not want to be accused
of sabotaging SAARC. So it has resorted to diplomatic doublespeak. Islamabad
says it sent the schedule to India on August 28: officials-level meeting
on January 7-8, foreign ministers' meeting on January 9-11 and the summit
on January 11-13, 2003. The schedule was discussed at the sidelines of
the UN General Assembly, Pakistan claims. But Delhi maintains the dates
are still to be finalised so the question of whether the prime minister
will attend or not has not been decided yet. If only the ministers knew
By George, He's Back
The Kashmir polls has changed the power equations in the top echelons
of the Congress-not just in Srinagar but in Delhi as well. Party President
Sonia Gandhi's private secretary Vincent George, who had been lying low
after being charged with possessing assets disproportionate to his income,
is visible again at 10 Janpath. Reason: He is close to Kashmir PCC chief
Ghulam Nabi Azad. More surprising was the guest who visited George's home:
Sonia's political secretary Ambika Soni, who was responsible for his ouster
from 10 Janpath, came calling. Everybody loves a winner, and his cohorts.
Modi The Gujarat chief minister on the riots
in the state and the coming assembly elections
Q. Your opponents call you "Jinnah of the Hindus".
A. I am hearing this for the first time though I still don't consider
you my enemy.
Q. You are held responsible for the killing of 1,100 innocent people
in the riots.
A. In our previous interview you said 900 people. Now you are saying
1,100. Are you adding all the people killed in other states like Maharashtra
and Bengal to Gujarat's account?
Q. So what is the correct tally?
A. There would have been no riots in Gujarat if there was no Godhra.
Q. Aren't you trying to justify the riots by saying that it was the
result of Godhra?
A. Nobody can deny the fact that the Gujarat riots were the aftermath
Q. Do you accept that you failed to provide security to people of
A. Ninety-eight per cent of Gujarat would not have had peace if we
had failed to fulfil our duties. We managed to control the riots within
Q. You have nothing good to say about Muslims.
A. I talk about the interests of five crore Gujaratis and the figure
includes every class and religion.
Q. Do you think that the Gaurav Yatra will fetch you votes and enable
you to return to power?
A. I am using the Yatra to reach out to the people.
Q. What is your view on the Muslims of the country?
A. I don't like to think of minority or majority communities. As far
as Gujarat is concerned, its five crore population should unite to take
the state forward.
Q. You have made provocative comments about the Muslims. On their
population growth rate, for example.
A. I stand by my words. I strongly believe that to make ours a developed
country the population growth rate has to be checked. You should not categorise
society into Hindus and Muslims but into the rich and poor in order to
ascertain the level of development.
Q. Are you confident enough to go to the Muslim community to ask
for their vote?
A. We will ask the five crore Gujaratis for their votes on the basis
of performance and good governance.
Q. Are you working on the agenda of the RSS or the BJP?
A. I am following the agenda of the BJP. Gujarat is the No. 1 state
in the country. I am going to fight the elections to maintain its premier
Q. Prime Minister Vajpayee and Home Minister Advani have said that
whatever happened in Gujarat was wrong.
A. I say the same thing. The communal riots in Gujarat were unfortunate
and we are sad they took place.
Q. Why don't you admit that Gujarat is being defamed because of Narendra
A. If that is true, give the people of Gujarat a chance to pronounce
their verdict through elections.