Ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls in December, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday described the communal riots in the state as “barbaric” and urged party workers to follow the example of Professor Ram Puniyani and Dr JS Bandukwala, the winners of 2006 Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration for their role in fighting communalism and promoting communal harmony.
According to Sonia, the trauma of the Babri Masjid demolition, the Mumbai riots and the riots in Gujarat prompted Puniyani to give up everything and concentrate on spreading social and national harmony.
Likewise, Bandukwala, despite losing everything in the Gujarat riots, devoted himself to build communal harmony.
“The truth that has recently come out proves how true are the ideas and paths adopted by leaders like Puniyani and Bandukwala,” Sonia said, referring to the recent sting operation on the Gujarat administration's role in the riots. "It is the primary responsibility of Congress workers to fight such inhuman barbarism," she said.
Unlike Sonia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not directly refer to Gujarat. Instead he focused on the efforts of the two awardees in "fighting communalism and communal forces…and strengthening the architecture of our inclusive society." Communal harmony are our building blocks for nation-building, Singh said, adding that his government was striving to promote an inclusive society by coming out with the Sachar report on improving the fortune of the minority community.
In his acceptance speech before a distinguished gathering, Puniyani said he saw both majoritarian and minority fundamentalism as a threat to the nation, but the danger from the former was greater as it sought to project itself as "nationalism."
He also took a swipe at the Congress when he quoted Nehru as saying that there are certain elements in the party with communal tendencies. "The Sachar report is not being implemented with the speed it should be and the National Integration Council has not done as much as it should to promote communal harmony or remove misconceptions about the minority community," he alleged.
Bandukwala, on his part, touched many a heart with his comments: "I was a victim of the riots. But I forgive everyone." He added that Muslims only seek security, equity and justice. "We saw in 2002 how an entire community was reduced to a pariah community," he said.