The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salve on minorities, rap on West
- PM warns against ‘erroneous’ terror linkage

Nainital, Sept. 23: The Prime Minister today criticised the West for making an “erroneous linkage” between terrorism and Muslims and urged police not to make the minorities an automatic target of suspicion while probing terror.

“Communal sensitivities continue to remain high. It arises presumably from the erroneous linkage — made by the West, of treating actions of a few as typical of the community as a whole, thus tarnishing the community’s image,” Manmohan Singh told a meeting of the party’s chief ministers.

In Congress circles, Singh’s criticism of the West is being seen in the context of the party’s bid to woo the minorities, particularly keeping in mind the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.

“Perhaps there is now a strong case for augmenting the number of personnel from minority communities in police forces and in intelligence apparatus,” Singh told the 14 chief ministers.

“We can at least try and re-deploy capable officers of minority communities to sensitive areas in large numbers.”

The Prime Minister’s remarks were a follow-up on his statement a month ago that his experience as a Sikh during the Punjab militancy of the 1980s made it easy for him to understand what Muslims were going through now.

At a meeting with Muslim leaders who cited how the law enforcement agencies were harassing the community after the Mumbai train blasts, Singh had promised to call a conference of chief ministers to discuss the problem.

Party chief Sonia Gandhi set the tone of the meeting today, saying no community should feel itself under siege.

Singh took it up from there, saying that when the law enforcement agencies line up the entire population of a locality for questioning, it merely reflects their own failures.

“It shows that local police is out of touch with residents and has failed to gain their confidence,” he argued without naming Maharashtra, where such incidents have been reported.

He appealed to educationists and the media to promote “the commonality of sacred values which exist among all regions”.

Singh criticised the “deliberate attempts” to magnify “stray incidents” in Jammu and Kashmir and said efforts would be made to bring normality back in the state by talking to its people and the Pakistani leadership. But he also warned of a spurt in suicide attacks on religious, economic and sensitive institutions and termed as “disconcerting” reports about terror modules and sleeper cells in some urban areas that provide back-up for foreign terrorists.

“The activities of externally-sponsored terrorist outfits is equally worrisome. Their involvement has grown. The concern is that there could be a further intensification involving greater use of fidayeen elements and targeting of a wider range of religious, economic and sensitive objects.”

Referring to the growing influence of Maoists in several states, he said they had thrived in the “most neglected” areas of the country, particularly tribal areas.

He held up Andhra Pradesh as a model in the battle against Maoists, suggesting other states should send their officers there for training and to gain insights.

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