New Delhi, Sept. 8: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today felt that the administrative capacity to prevent inter-community strife has weakened but took care to draw a distinction between communal rift and the recent flare-up in Assam that he described as “ethnic tensions”.
“The erosion in inter-community relations is something that should worry us all. The capacity of the administrative set-up 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 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 “re-orienting” the police forces “to effectively track the sentiments of the people and inter-community tensions as they rise”.
He said the focus must be on pre-empting a situation before it snowballs. “Advance identification of potential trouble-makers, timely use of preventive sections of the law, alongside seeking co-operation of the community for maintaining peace should be the first instruments to be deployed, well before the situation deteriorates.”
Singh also said the government was working on a “robust cyber security structure” to tackle the threat that misuse of the Internet could pose to the country’s economy and social fabric.
Such cyber crime can have “potentially devastating results”, he said.
The comments came weeks after morphed images of alleged atrocities against minorities in Assam sparked threats against people from the Northeast.
“Large-scale computer attacks on our critical infrastructure and economy can have potentially devastating results,” Singh said.
Singh said the cyber strategy the Centre was working on would address threat management and mitigation, assurance and certification, capacity building and research.
There was also a word of caution. While working on ways to counter cyber crime, he said, care should be taken to make sure it didn’t infringe on freedom of expression.