New Delhi, Jan. 13: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today cautioned people to be wary of those trying to “redefine secularism”, in what appeared to be a veiled attack on Narendra Modi in his latest broadside at the BJP’s 2014 mascot.
Singh also alluded to the September riots in Muzaffarnagar as he sought to warn citizens against “aberrations” that put the social fabric under “severe test”.
The Prime Minister, who has already opted out of a third term in office even if the UPA were to return to power after the upcoming elections, was speaking at the annual conference of state minority commissions, where he highlighted his government’s efforts to ensure social and economic justice for minorities.
But it was his veiled attack on the BJP’s Prime Minister aspirant that stood out. “For India as a country, secularism has been a way of life practised over centuries. We should be cautious of people who work against India’s secular thought by attempting to redefine secularism,” he said while opening the meet.
Earlier this month, on January 3, Singh had ripped into Modi, saying it would be “disastrous” for the country if the Gujarat leader became Prime Minister.
Singh said there have been instances when the relationship between the majority and minority communities has been put to “severe test, especially of late”, an apparent reference to the September flare-up in the west Uttar Pradesh district that forced thousands to flee home and left dozens dead.
These “aberrations”, he said, “cause pain and suffering” and “also disrupt the ability of large sections of our society to contribute to the rapid economic progress of our country”.
India’s strength, the Prime Minister said, lay in its unity. “We should be vigilant against forces that seek to exploit our diversity in religion, language and culture to divide our people.”
Singh said it was the government’s duty to ensure equal opportunity for all religious minorities and added that the Congress-led UPA has tried its best to do that. He referred to the Sachar committee report on the socio-economic backwardness of Muslims and said his government had accepted 72 of the panel’s 76 recommendations.
Most of the concerns raised by the committee, he said, have been addressed by the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme, while the matter of reservation in jobs was pending in court.
The Prime Minister said that Muslims, unlike some other religious minorities that have done well, have not had an equal share of the fruits of development, and it was incumbent on any government to redress such inequalities.
“Our efforts over the last nine years have shown visible results but a lot more needs to be done. Priority sector leading to minorities by banks has increased from about Rs 59,000 crore in 2007-08 to about 1,85,000 crore in 2012-13,” he said. “Their recruitment in central government has gone up from 6.9 per cent in 2006-07 to 7.4 per cent in 2012-13.”
Minority affairs minister K. Rahman Khan said the UPA government had announced a 4.5 per cent job quota for backward minorities, which would have mostly benefited Muslims, but Andhra Pradesh High Court had quashed it on the ground that religion-based reservation was constitutionally invalid.
The government has moved the Supreme Court against the order.