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Singh talks of bias but avoids R-word

New Delhi, Feb. 15: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said recurring incidents of violence such as Nido Tania’s killing stem from “intolerance and prejudice” but stopped short of terming it racial discrimination.

Tania’s death last month sparked widespread protests for enactment of a law against racism. The Centre is also reported to be under pressure from 39 Northeast MPs. Some activists say Singh should not shy away from uttering the “R-word”.

The “senseless violence” that led to the killing of the Arunachal student was one of three internal security issues Singh mentioned today at a conference for governors. The other two are militancy and assaults on women.

“The third issue relates to recurring incidents of intolerance and prejudice in some parts of the country against people who have come from other states to live there,” Singh said.

Incidents of regional bias have been recorded not just in Delhi but in other states too. In Mumbai, Raj Thackeray’s vitriol against people from Bihar and the Ulfa’s massacre of Hindi-speaking people in Assam are instances of what Singh termed “intolerance”.

Such incidents cannot be tolerated in any civilised society and those responsible should be dealt with firmly, the Prime Minister said.

He said it was imperative to work collectively to ensure that all citizens, irrespective of the state they belonged to, feel safe, secure and welcome in all parts of the country.

“On the specific issue of problems being faced by our brothers and sisters from the Northeast, our government has recently constituted a committee which will look into the issue and suggest remedial measures,” Singh said.

Activists like Binalakshmi Nepram said Singh should not shy away from saying “racial discrimination” exists. Ninong Ering, the junior minority affairs minister, had drawn flak for not terming the Tania case one of racial bias.

Tania’s mother Marina Nido today said she would take up the racism issue again with the government. “I will speak again on the need for such a law,” she said on the sidelines of an all-faith prayer meeting for her son.

The boy’s father, Nido Pavitra, said the meeting was also a means of creating awareness about people from the Northeast.

The Arunachal (West) MP, Takam Sanjoy, said an anti-racism law would help people not only from the Northeast but elsewhere too. “It is not just about us, it is also about discrimination against people from the north in the south and vice-versa,” he said.