Press Release

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is deeply shocked by the ghastly incident in Lucknow where 22 poor women and children died in the stampede on 12 April 2004. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. We condemn the thoroughly insensitive attitude of the organisers of the programme who assembled several thousands of poor women with promise to distribute free saris.

We have already raised the issue with the Election Commission yesterday pointing out that the programme was a gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct. We had drawn the attention of the Commission about the expected conduct to be followed by political parties. Once the Code of Conduct came into force and not with reference to candidates or their election agents as has been attributed by the BJP or in their interpretation by a section of the media. But we are completely surprised at the BJP’s response to the entire sequence of development. Having been a party to the "free sari distribution" the BJP is now alleging that those of us who have raised this issue with the Election Commission are politicising the unfortunate tragedy. But, the issue is whether the organisation of the sari distribution programme as part of a birthday celebration of an individual who is the leader of the opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly is a non-political event?

The following questions need to be answered.

· Whether it is a fact that the BJP flags adorned the venue where the free sari distribution was to take place on 12 April as opposed to similar programmes in the past?

· Whether it is a fact that in the follow-up to the complaint lodged with the authorities that the proposed programme on April 12 was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct?

· Whether it is a fact that the Additional District Magistrate establishment send a letter to the police inspector, Mahanagar on April 12 on the day of the programme itself stating that "BJP is to distribute saris to 20,000 poor women in Mahanagar".

BJP knows very well the answer to these questions and the ADM’s description of the programme makes it very clear that the BJP was involved in organising the programme. Therefore, the BJP cannot escape the consequence of their political action of using the birthday of an individual leader to influence the votes of thousands of poor women and their families.
The fact that 22 of them lie dead and cannot speak for themselves forces us to raise this question on their behalf.