By Nilofar Suhrawardy & Agencies
Friday 3 May 2002
Last Update 3 May 2002 12:00 am
NEW DELHI, 3 May — India’s embattled ruling coalition did an about-face yesterday, saying it would back an opposition motion in the Parliament’s upper house to express anguish over religious violence in the western state of Gujarat.
"We have never said we are absolved of our responsibility," Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh told the upper house. "The government shares the anguish expressed in the motion."
"Every loss of Indian life, irrespective of class, creed, community, sex, it grieves every Indian.
"The government shares the sentiment," Jaswant said. "There has been enough violence, slinging of charges against each other."
The decision by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s multi-party government was aimed at avoiding the humiliation of a legislative defeat on the motion in the upper house of Parliament where the opposition enjoys a decisive majority.
"We accept the motion in letter and spirit," Jaswant said during yesterday’s fresh debate on the motion, sponsored by India’s main opposition Congress party.
The Congress-led opposition was unhappy with the government’s sudden plan to back out of a parliamentary battle.
The opposition has accused Vajpayee’s coalition of destroying the secular foundations of mainly Hindu India by failing to protect its 120 million Muslims.
Initiating a discussion in the upper house of Parliament on the continuous violence in the western Indian state, Congress Party leader Arjun Singh said Prime Minister Vajpayee’s government represented "forces of disintegration" with a "hidden agenda" to Hinduize the country.
The Congress party likened pogroms against Muslims in Gujarat to the situation that prevailed in Germany under Hitler.