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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 23:48 GMT 00:48 UK
India coalition defeats censure vote
Police patrolling in Ahmedabad
Gujarat is still tense and sporadic violence continues
The Indian Government has survived a censure vote in parliament over its handling of the recent sectarian violence in Gujarat, in which more than 900 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The opposition had accused the Hindu nationalist-led government of failing to ensure the security of Muslims during the worst rioting in India in more than 10 years.

If I committed a mistake, I accept the mistake. I should have tried harder

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
But after a 16-hour debate, the coalition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, defeated the motion by nearly 100 votes.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Vajpayee - who has come under increasing criticism over Gujarat - announced a $31.9m assistance package for the victims of the religious violence.

The prime minister acknowledged that his government had failed to anticipate the widespread reprisals against Muslims in Gujarat after 59 Hindus were burnt alive in Godhra by Muslims in February.

"Somehow we felt that the reaction to the Godhra incident would not be so gruesome," he told legislators at the end of the debate.

"If I committed a mistake, I accept the mistake. I should have tried harder."

Opposition accusations

A key government ally, the Telugu Desham Party (TDM), walked out of the parliament, expressing its dissatisfaction with Mr Vajpayee's speech.

Muslims living in a relief camp in Ahmedabad after their houses were burnt by Hindus
Thousands of Muslims are living in relief camps
Another coalition partner, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, abstained from the vote.

Earlier the main opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi told parliament the Gujarat issue was a defining moment for all Indians and that government had collapsed in the state.

Mrs Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party, said Gujarat continued to "burn and bleed".

"The state government is guilty of not just incompetence but deliberate connivance," she said ahead of the vote.

On Monday, Coal and Mines Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, became the first cabinet member to resign in protest at the continuing religious violence.

Mr Paswan belongs to the Lok Jan Shakti party, which has four parliamentary seats and is one of more than 20 parties making up the federal coalition.

The former minister, who belongs to the Lok Jan Shakti party, said it would be a sad development if the censure motion were not passed.

In the end, the government managed to defeat the opposition motion 267 to 182, with eight abstentions.

Death toll

Sporadic violence has continued in Gujarat since February when Hindus targeted Muslims in widespread rioting.

Ram Vilas Paswan
Ram Vilas Paswan: First minister to resign
It followed an attack by Muslims on Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya, where hardliners want to build a Hindu temple on the ruins of a demolished mosque.

On Tuesday, police said the official death toll had reached 905.

But human rights organisations say at least 2,000 have died, and many more have been forced to remain in refugee camps in Gujarat, unable to go back to their homes.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Defeat would have threatened the coalition's stability"
See also:

25 Apr 02 | South Asia
UK report censures Gujarat rulers
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Profile: Narendra Modi
12 Apr 02 | South Asia
Analysis: BJP's Gujarat tactics
16 Apr 02 | South Asia
Gujarat Muslim women 'rape victims'
15 Mar 02 | South Asia
India's secularism under threat?
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
Analysis: India's religious clashes
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