When Last NDA President APJ Abdul Kalam visited Strife Torn Gujarat, Urged ‘Communal Harmony & Meeting of Minds’: August 11, 2002

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: July 17, 2017
Widespread speculation, even controversy had surrounded the visit of the then first Indian President under NDA I (Atal Behari Vajpayee) rule to strife torn Gujarat in August 2002.  Kalam wrote about this visit extensively in his book “Turning Points”  released in June 2012.

Abdul kalam
Image: PTI

The late Indian president writes about this fall-out when he recalls his visit to the state of Gujarat after the 2002 carnage. He states that the then Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee appeared to be not keen on President APJ Abdul Kalam’s official visit to the state but he recalled the message he had given India and the world at the end of the two day tour. “I expressed my thoughts through a statement in which I the need for an intensified movement to completely communal and other forms of strife and bring about unity of minds.”
The former President in the book recalled this painful period when then chief minister of the state NarendraModi was with him, every step of the tour. Kalam said, “my mission was not to look at what had happened,not to look at what was happening,but to focus on what should be done”.But at the ministry and bureaucratic level,it was suggested that he should not venture into Gujarat at that point of time. He also said that the he was first advised not to go. “One of the main reasons was political. However,I made my mind that I would go and preparations were in full swing at RashtrapatiBhavan for my first visit as president,” he said. “The prime minister,AtalBihariVajpayee,asked me only one question, ‘Do you consider going to Gujarat at this time essential?’

“I told the PM,’I consider it an important duty so that I can be of some use to remove the pain,and also accelerate the relief activities,and bring about a unity of minds,which is my mission,as I stressed in my address during the swearing-in ceremony.”
Kalam described the visit when he had released the book in 2012, “I visited 12 areas – three relief camps and nine riot-hit locations where the losses had been high. NarendraModi,the chief minister,was with me throughout the visit. In one way,this helped me,as wherever I went,I received petitions and complaints and as he was with me I was able to suggest to him that action be taken as quickly as possible.”
Recalling an incident during one of his visits to a relief camp,Kalamwrites,”A six-year-old boy came up to me,both my hands and said,’Rashtrapatiji,I want my mother and father.’ I was speechless. There itself,I held a quick meeting with the district collector. The chief minister also assured me that the boy’s education and welfare would be taken care of by the government.”
“While I was in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar,people from all sections of society wished to talk to me and express their and views personally. In one such gathering,nearly citizens of Ahmedabad surrounded me. The interaction was in Gujarati and a friend of mine translated. I was asked about fifty questions and received 150 petitions.
“My visit to two important places in Ahmedabad was indeed significant,particularly in the light of the riots. I called on PramukhSwamijiMaharaj at Akshardham where he welcomed me. I discussed with His Holiness the mission of achieving unity of minds and bringing a healing touch to Gujarat,which has given to the nation great human beings like Mahatma Gandhi,SardarVallabhbhai Patel and Vikram Sarabhai.”
Kalam also visited Sabarmati Ashram,where he met many ashramites and saw the agony writ large on their faces,even they mechanically carried out their normal chores.
“I witnessed similar sentiments at Akshardham as well. As I was wondering why,Irealised that both these institutions,virtue of their inherent love and respect of human beings and their spiritual environment,work to bring happiness,and progress to society and could therefore not accept a situation of inflicting avoidable pain.
“I say this because in our land,with its heritage of a evolved civilization and where great men were born and stood tall as role models for the entire world,communal riots with their attendant tragedy are an aberration that should never happen.”
There was some controversy too, around APJ’s visit to Gujarat in 2002.

Internally displaced persons and survivors staying at the largest relief camp, Shah-e-Alam accused the state government of changing his itinerary at the last minute.Unhappy that President A P J Abdul Kalam did not visit them during his trip to Ahmedabad, inmates of the Shah-e-Alam relief camp went hungry on Monday.

The over 4,100 inmates -- mostly from the riot-hit NarodaPatia area -- protested against the arrest of their camp organiser Sharif Khan Pathan and the government's "evil designs" to keep the camp off the President's itinerary.