The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Praveen sets term for good conduct

New Delhi, May 5: Firebrand VHP leader Praveen Togadia today assured the National Commission for Minorities of good behaviour, provided the minority community condemned terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country.

The VHP elicited a counter assurance from the commission that madarsas would be told to delete “anti-India references” from their syllabus, if any. Acharya Giriraj Kishore said the VHP had reservations about words like kaafir (non-believer of Islam), jihad (holy war) and dar-ul-Islam (Islamic centre).

The conditional assurance of good behaviour was given at a meeting of senior VHP leaders convened by the commission today to discuss apprehensions of minority leaders in the wake of the VHP’s trishul distribution.

The trident distribution and recent remarks creating “fear psychosis” among the minorities dominated the meeting. Sangh leaders, including Kishore and Surendra Jain, assured that they would not say or do anything that would hurt the minorities.

But they expressed concern over some “irritants” which, they said, should be removed to achieve communal harmony.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India had last week approached the minorities’ commission, expressing fears about the VHP campaign and the Gujarat government’s bid to survey the Christian population and educational institutions in the state.

“The VHP leaders have assured us that they will not make any statement or undertake any such activity which will be anti-minority. They have also asserted that they are not against any particular minority,” commission chairman Tarlochan Singh said after a two-hour meeting.

On the “irritants” mentioned by the VHP leaders, Singh said “they demanded that whenever there was any terrorist attack, including in Jammu and Kashmir, the minority community leaders should condemn it in the strongest possible manner. They have also expressed concern over the usage of some words and inclusion of some alleged anti-India civilisation remarks in the syllabus of madarsas.”

Agreeing with the VHP leaders, Singh said the commission would look into the syllabus of the madarsas and ensure removal of remarks. Vice-chairman M. S. Usmani will look into the matter, Singh said.

Asked if the commission approved of the trident distribution, Usmani said: “The trident distribution was out of religious sentiment and not with the intention of creating a war-like situation. We only pleaded with Togadia to be shabnam (dew) and not shola (fireball).”

Having virtually endorsed the distribution, Usmani questioned if any Sikh would agree to not carry the kirpan, which had the sanction of their religion.

Stating that relying on the Constitution alone would not help, Usmani said what was necessary for maintaining communal harmony was the goodwill and love of the majority community.

The commission had tried to broker a dialogue between Church leaders and the RSS brass in the wake of attacks on Christian institutions in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.

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