New Delhi, Aug. 21: Drawing a parallel with the trauma of Sikhs in the eighties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told Muslims that he understands their “suffering” and asserted that there is “no need to equate terrorism and terrorists with any one community”.
With minority leaders complaining on his face that law enforcement agencies are zeroing in on the community’s religious identity to harass Muslims after the Mumbai train blasts, the Prime Minister announced he would shortly convene a conference of chief ministers to sensitise them to the problems.
He was speaking at a conference organised by Muslims to address questions associated with terrorism and a tendency to stigmatise the community.
Singh specifically mentioned the chief minister of Maharashtra, where several Muslims have been picked up at random as part of the probe into the blasts.
“When investigations are on, there is a tendency to look suspiciously only at Muslims. I have told the Maharashtra chief minister several times that this should not happen. When combating terrorism, no community should feel it is on the radar of suspicion.”
Singh stressed that police should stop picking up innocent Muslim boys and girls for interrogation every time there is a terror strike.
The Prime Minister’s comments came in the middle of a growing sense of helplessness within the community in the wake of raids that singled out Muslim clusters. A perception that the government is too “pro-US” had also added to the insecurities.
Soon after President George W. Bush’s visit to India, a plan was afoot to organise a meeting between Singh and leaders of the minority community. But the meeting did not materialise.
Today, Singh tried to set the record straight by pointing out that acts of terror are not confined to perpetrators from any particular community.
He told the clerics and scholars, who formed a large part of the audience, of the tribulations the Sikh community had to go through “some 10 or 15 years ago”. The Prime Minister did not specifically mention the events but it was apparent that he was referring to the militancy in Punjab that eventually resulted in the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Singh also indirectly referred to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by suspected Tamil Tigers, saying “every Tamil cannot be equated with LTTE”.
But he urged the ulemas to modernise the syllabi in madarsas.
Several Muslim organisations had come together to convene the two-day meeting but it had the blessings of the Congress high command.
Asked what the conference had achieved, civil rights activist Yusuf Hatim Muchhala said: “The biggest message is that someone is willing to listen to the Muslims. We felt frustrated.”