Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s 24th Sadbhavana Mission fast that was held in Godhra on Friday seems to have failed in its bid to win over the local Muslim population. The turnout of local Muslims at the fast venue, particularly from the Muslim-dominated Polan Bazar and Signal Falia localities of the town, was lower than expected.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister said that Godhra had been free of rioting and communal hatred for the last 10 years largely due to the vigilance of his government.
It may be noted that on February 27, 2002, it was at Godhra railway station that a riotous mob had set fire to a compartment of Sabarmati Express causing the death of 58 people. The incident had triggered communal riots across the state in which nearly 2,000 people had died, most of them Muslims. In his speech, Modi said that Godhra had been infamous for communal riots since 1736 as every time a religious procession was taken out by either community, there was a strong possibility of riots breaking out in the town.
“Whether it was the Jagannath Rathyatra, Moharram, Ganesh Visarjan or the kite festival, there was rioting in Godhra. It is the only town to have been under curfew for 300 days,” he said. In a lighter vein, he added that it was said about Godhra that children born here became familiar first with the word ‘curfew’ and then with the words for father and mother.
"But all that has changed now. For the last 10 years, there has been no curfew in the town even for a single day and people here have been living together happily," he said. He added that communal hatred had disappeared from Gujarat and people lived here in goodwill and brotherhood. Talking about Gujarat as a development model, Modi said the nation sees the state as a benchmark of development for other states. He criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for realising only in 2012 that malnutrition among children was high. Modi further said that through his Sadbhavna mission fasts, he wants to send the message that, in Gujarat, there was no vote-bank politics but the politics of everyone's development with everyone's support (sauno saath, saunno sangath). He announced a package of Rs1,490 crore for the development of Panchmahal district. This amount is to be used in the year 2012, he said.