Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presents the police medal for meritorious service, along with Rs 22 lakh and a citation, to M.C. Mary Kom as Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde looks on during the meeting of directors-general of police and inspectors-general of police in New Delhi on Saturday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 8: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today felt that the administrative capacity to prevent intercommunity strife has weakened but took care to draw a distinction between communal rift and the recent flareup in Assam that he described as “ethnic tensions”.
“The erosion in intercommunity relations is something that should worry us all. The capacity of the administrative setup to check such deterioration seems to have weakened. This would be true of the police administration as well,” Singh told an annual conference of state directors-general and inspectors-general of police.
“The grassroots information and intelligence collection systems that have traditionally been a part of policing have languished in some places,” he added.
The Prime Minister referred to the clashes in Assam in which at least 99 people had been killed. However, he did not term the riots “communal”. Many had traced the root of the clashes to fear among the local Bodo populace of losing land to settlers, although some Sangh parivar leaders have been stressing more on illegal immigration from Bangladesh as the principal cause.
“The ethnic, religious and cultural diversity in our country is a source of strength and vitality to India. We must, therefore, continue to strengthen the thread of unity running through our variegated societal landscape. It is in this context that the increase in the communal incidents in the country in the past few months and the revival of ethnic tensions in the Northeast in recent weeks have been particular causes of concern to all of us,” the Prime Minister said.
Singh also mentioned how it acquired a national dimension. “The ethnic disturbances of the Northeast assumed a national dimension with the flight of people belonging to the Northeast from various towns of south and western India.”
Without mentioning the violence that followed a rally in Mumbai, the Prime Minister added: “This (the flight of the people) further strained the communal situation in the country, which was already showing some signs of deterioration, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.”
The Prime Minister advocated the need for “reorienting” the police forces “to effectively track the sentiments of the people and intercommunity tensions as they rise”.
He said the focus must be on preempting a situation before it snowballs. “Advance identification of potential troublemakers, timely use of preventive sections of the law, alongside seeking cooperation of the community for maintaining peace should be the first instruments to be deployed, well before the situation deteriorates.”
He underscored the need for the police to develop soft skills so that community leaders could be involved.
“It is particularly important to obtain assistance of saner elements of the society to marginalise those who are overtly intolerant and aggressive. We must train our police personnel to develop these soft skills.” The Prime Minister drew attention to the misuse of bulk SMSes and social media, which aggravated the situation, but advocated the need to strike a balance while regulating these avenues. “We need to fully understand how these new media are used by miscreants. We also need to devise strategies to counter the propaganda that is carried out by these new means. Any measure to control the use of such media must be carefully weighed against the need for the freedom to express and communicate. I am sure that in the coming months our police forces would be able to work out effective strategies to deal with these tendencies,” Singh said.