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Advani reaffirms faith in secularism

By Our Special Correspondent

AHMEDABAD Sept. 28. The Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, said here today that Gujarat's image had been affected abroad due to a "sustained propaganda'', and criticised those who "knowingly or unknowingly'' brought a bad name to the State and "by extension'' to India.

Mr. Advani was inaugurating a conclave on "Vibrant Gujarat, Global Investors' Meet'', to attract foreign investors. He appealed to the people in the country and abroad not to believe the adverse propaganda about the State and reaffirmed the country's faith in secularism.

Referring to the communal disturbances in the State last year as "sad and unfortunate'' he said they were an "aberration'' and the State had "learnt some lessons''. He said Gujarat always stood for peace and universal brotherhood.

He said he felt shocked and pained when some people abroad asked him whether India would remain a secular country because of what they had heard about the communal riots. The founding-fathers of the Constitution unanimously decided to keep the country secular even in the backdrop of communal massacres during the Partition. The country would always remain secular because the people in India, its culture, heritage and history "totally reject'' theocracy. "I feel insulted when people ask me questions about our faith in secularism. It is what they understand about Gujarat and India from what they had heard about the happenings last year,'' he said.

Mr. Advani regretted that some people "knowingly and unknowingly'' brought a bad name to the State with a sustained propaganda about the riots but they failed to realise that they were damaging the image of India also.

He said the Vajpayee Government had allayed fears among the people that with the change of government, reforms would be given up.

The process of globalisation had now entered the second phase of consolidation and could not be reversed any more. The process would make the country the most developed nation in the years to come, he said.

Mr. Advani regretted that while Gujaratis were the "best tourists'', the State itself did not attract tourists, either domestic or foreigners. He would like to see Ahmedabad in the same league as Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pune in the telecom industry and develop into a more cosmopolitan city.

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