The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vajpayee bias sermon to cops

New Delhi, Sept. 30: Wary of a communal backlash and aware that cops had earned a bad name after the Godhra riots, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today appealed to the police force to act without bias and win the trust of all sections of society.

“I appeal to you, the police leadership, to spare no pains in inculcating in your men a sense of duty for protecting communal harmony in the country. You should ensure that not even a small section of the police force gets carried away at a time of provocation,” Vajpayee told a conference of police officers.

He also warned the police not to allow politicians to dictate terms and stressed that the force must be “apolitical, neutral and free of sectarian, regional or any other kind of bias. They must consciously try to earn the trust of all sections of our society. In doing so, they not only become better policemen, but will also serve as a binding force to our diverse society”.

Intelligence Bureau chief R.K. Singh echoed the Prime Minister and said the police force would adopt an “objective approach in dealing with all communities”. Before he addressed the delegates, Vajpayee spoke to DGPs and IG’s of all Central forces privately.

That meeting was also attended by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, principal secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra, junior ministers I.D. Swamy and C.H. Vidysagar Rao, Cabinet secretary T.R. Prasad and Union home secretary Kamal Pande.

The importance of a neutral police force was drilled into senior officiers at the closed-door meeting. Vajpayee is aware of the bad name the Narendra Modi administration has got in Gujarat, particularly after the alleged refusal of the police to save Muslims from Hindu mobs. He has made it a point to stress that Gujarat is not repeated.

Vajpayee also chose the conference to clarify his position on terrorism to the VHP. He was bitterly attacked by VHP chief Ashok Singhal for saying that “terrorism is breathing its last breath” after visiting the Swaminarayan temple. The VHP made several sarcastic remarks after that statement.

Vajpayee said what he meant was that terrorism was no longer acceptable in today’s world and terror tactics, even for a good cause, was no longer justified on any ground. Also, terrorists were no longer accepted as political revolutionaries fired by noble and universal ideals. He was speaking figuratively and not literally, Vajpayee explained.

The attack on the Swaminarayan temple has suddenly woken the government to the dangers of a communal flare-up. Both the Prime Minister and his deputy have been asking people to defeat the “nefarious designs of the enemy by exercising restraint”.

Speaking on internal security, Vajpayee said terrorism fuelled by religious extremism drew its ideological sustenance, patronage and operational support from outside our borders.

India would have to fight the battle against terror, diplomatically, politically, ideologically and on the ground with intelligence and firepower.

Vajpayee said India was making steady progress in its fight against terrorism, leading to desperation in the ranks of the enemy and more dastardly attacks on soft targets. “It is increasingly recognised that terrorists have no religion, and that they actually commit blasphemy when they commit heinous crimes ion the name of religion,” he said.

The Prime Minister said holding free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir was a singular achievement of his government and congratulated the people for proving that the bullet cannot defeat the ballot in a democracy.

He also said that India would intensify its diplomatic initiatives to remind the international coalition against terrorism to redeem their pledge to combat terror everywhere. “Which means that Pakistan must be held accountable for its continued sponsorship of terrorism in India.”

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