| Nitish Kumar interacts with Union minister of health and family welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad and BJP leader Arun Jaitley at the National Integration Council meeting in New Delhi on Monday. Telegraph picture |
New Delhi, Sept. 23: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged governments to use their “full force” to crack down on those stoking communal violence whatever their political loyalties, putting the onus on states to rein in troublemakers before it was too late.
The tough talk, in the backdrop of the recent flare-up in Uttar Pradesh, came at a National Integration Council meeting that most NDA chief ministers skipped.
Among those who gave the meeting the miss was Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s mascot for the 2014 general election.
Singh said state governments should “lose no time” to control communal violence sternly. “The full force of the government should be used against those fanning communal flames, irrespective of how powerful they are or to which political party they belong,” he told the council’s 16th meeting.
“The local administration should prevent a small issue from snowballing into a huge controversy and arrest those responsible for spreading it.” Singh said the debate over which party could gain from such violence and which stood to lose was “unfortunate” and could threaten the very existence of India as a civilised nation.
The comments come at a time political circles are abuzz with talk of the possible electoral implications of the clashes in Uttar Pradesh where four dozen people have died since the violence began last month.
Till September 15 this year, 62 people have been killed and 377 injured in 93 major and minor incidents of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh.
The heartland state, which sends 80 MPs to Parliament, tops the list of 17 states, excluding Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, which have registered incidents of communal violence and tension, according to government figures.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, under attack following allegations that the Uttar Pradesh government dithered in acting against several Opposition legislators accused of making provocative speeches, claimed the situation was brought under control “in the least possible time”. He said over 2,000 people, including some elected representatives, had been arrested since the August 27 incident that triggered the Muzaffarnagar riots.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said he suspected a “sinister” motive behind the “frequency of (such) incidents” across the country in the last two years.
At a media conference later, Shinde took a crack at Modi, saying the Gujarat chief minister should have attended the meeting, convened in the wake of the riots in Muzaffarnagar. “It is very important that a leader like him should have come,” he said, asked if the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister should have been present.
No BJP chief minister, except Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chauhan, attended the meeting, though senior party leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj shared the platform with the Prime Minister and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Asked about the absence of several Congress chief ministers, such as Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Karnataka’s Siddaramaiah, Shinde said: “Chief ministers should have come but they were represented by their state ministers.”
Modi, who had also skipped the last NIC meeting in September 2011, was represented by a state minister.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who stayed away from the meet, was represented by finance minister Amit Mitra.
Punjab’s Parkash Singh Badal, an NDA ally, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa and Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik also skipped the meeting.
Among the other major concerns that figured on the NIC agenda this year were security of women and measures to tackle crimes against Dalits and tribals.