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 stayed away was 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 state governments should make it clear to officials that they were “answerable in case of any communal tension or violence”.
The Prime Minister said the debate which party could gain from such violence and which stood to lose was “unfortunate” and could threaten the very existence of India as a nation.
The comments came 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 flared early this 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, which sends 80 MPs to Parliament, tops the list of 17 states, excluding Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, that have registered incidents of communal violence and tension, according to government figures. Maharashtra (10 deaths), Madhya Pradesh (eight) and Gujarat and Rajasthan (six deaths each) are some of the other affected states.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, under attack following allegations that his government dithered in acting against several legislators accused of making provocative speeches, claimed the situation was brought under control “in the least possible time”.
Union home minister Sushil Kumar 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. “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 Chouhan, 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’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who stayed away from the meet, was represented by finance minister Amit Mitra.