Discord on Day 2: Protesters detained as Modi fasts

Mallika Sarabhai and Mukul Sinha were detained before they could protest against Modi`s three-day `sadbhavana` hunger strike.

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday insisted he was not trying to woo any community, but day two of his fast for amity saw a discordant note as police detained activists Mallika Sarabhai and Mukul Sinha with some victims of the 2002 communal violence.

Around 20 people, including Sarabhai and Sinha, were detained at Naroda Patiya locality -- which saw one of the most brutal killings in 2002 -- before they could protest against Modi`s three-day `sadbhavana` hunger strike.

At Gujarat University at the other end of the city, where his three-day fast began on Saturday, Modi denied widespread media speculation that he was trying to woo Muslims with a national agenda on his mind.

"Sadbhavna Mission is not about any particular community. It is about the people of Gujarat," Modi said.

"Gujarat has suffered immense pain. I empathise with the families that have suffered. I can still feel the pain," Modi said in an address to those thronging the venue, in an obvious reference to the 2002 communal riots that claimed 1,000 lives, mostly Muslim.

"The mission is to unite, not divide. Gujarat is my family, the six crore Gujaratis` happiness and grief, dreams and aspirations are mine."

He cited the achievements of his 10-year reign as "peace, unity and harmony".

Saturday saw a galaxy of BJP stalwarts including LK Advani, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad as well as Rajya Sabha member and TV star Smriti Irani come out in his support.

"He is a national figure. Let us not forget, he is a successful chief minister. At the same time, he is the demand of people from all over the country," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

"If he gets a different mandate, he will prove himself," he said.

The fast was meanwhile criticised by Congress as well as social activists and victims of the 2002 riots.

Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela and state Congress leader Arjun Modhvadia continued their parallel fast in more modest surroundings at Mahatama Gandhi`s ashram in Sabarmati.

Talking to reporters, Vaghela said that if Modi indeed regretted his actions, he should resign.

Leaders of BJP ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U) were conspicuous by their absence. Some JD-U leaders from Bihar went so far as to say they did not want to see Modi as prime minister.

"We have nothing to do with Modi fast, it is a BJP show, not a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fast," Bihar JD-U president Basisht Narain Singh said.

But Day 2 turned controversial for more than one reason.

With riot victims in Naroda Patiya, a locality in Ahmedabad that was scarred by the communal violence, resolving to hold a protest against Modi`s hunger strike, the entire Naroda village was ringed by police.

People were prevented from coming out of their homes and those who turned up, found their vehicles commandeered by the police and turned away.

Lawyer Sinha, who has taken up the cause of the 2002 riot victims, and 20 others were rounded up and taken to police headquarters. Sarabhai was also similarly picked up.

"There can be no sadbhavana (harmoney) without justice," Sinha said, in a clear reference to the continuing plight of a section of the 2002 riot victims.

While being taken to the police station, Sarabhai said a police officer told her that they were instructed Saturday morning to arrest her before her protest could begin.

The activist said police gave her no reasons while taking her away. "We were to hold a silent protest. I have no idea what I am being charged with," said Sarabhai, a danseuse and one of the most trenchant critics of Modi.

Sarabhai accused the chief minister of using public funds to "bribe" her attorney in an attempt to scuttle the petition filed in the apex court by her on the 2002 riots.

Modi’s fast is being countered by his Congress rival and Modi`s one-time RSS colleague Shankarsinh Vaghela. Congress called Modi`s ostentatious event “wastefulness”.

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