Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Communalism, extremism will be dealt with firmly: Manmohan

New Delhi | August 31, 2005 5:25:06 PM IST

Describing communalism and regionalism as persisting threats to India's unity, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday warned that his government would deal firmly with extremism, separatism, communalisation and insurgency.
Addressing the reconstituted National Integration Council that is meeting after nearly 13 years, Manmohan Singh also stressed on eschewing extremism and divisive ideologies, while challenging political outfits to contest elections rather than use violence as an expression.

"While we promote national integration and our core value of tolerance, any overt challenge we face in the form of communalism, extremism, separatism or insurgency and violence will need to be dealt with firmly," he said.

"Every political group that claims to represent the interests of any section of our people must test and demonstrate its popularity through the institutions of our democracy," he urged.

In a warning apparently to separatist militants and Maoist groups, Manmohan Singh said there was no grievance that could not be redressed through democratic means and dialogue.

"No civilised society can tolerate violence and extremism. No one has the right to take the law in their own hands. No society can pardon those who kill innocent people.

"Faced with such terror tactics, the government will have no other option than to fight such groups and their ideology of hatred.

"Extremism of any form, based on any divisive ideology, cannot be tolerated in any civilised, democratic society."

The conference held at Vigyan Bhavan was attended by top leaders, including former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I.K. Gujral and V.P. Singh, besides chief ministers and central ministers.

One of the key topics featuring in the meet is the challenge of communalism.

Vajpayee, the prime minister observed, was the only one to attend the first meeting of the council in 1962, when Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister.

Recalling the ideals set forth by Nehru, the first prime minister, he remarked that the four threats of "communalism, casteism, regionalism and linguism", identified by him remained.

Reminding that tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness characterised the Indian civilisation and nationhood, he asserted that any attempt to disturb India's secular fabric had to be "nipped in the bud".

He conceded the difficulties in dealing with covert threats to national integrity and said: "The ideologies of communalism, of casteism, of regional and linguistic chauvinism have to be fought in a more sustained and intelligent manner. We need a more humane, inclusive and liberal political culture."

The prime minister reiterated his favourite theme of India as a confluence of civilisations as opposed to a clash of civilisations.

"Our educational system, our media, our popular culture must reinforce this civilisational commitment of India to pluralism and inclusiveness," he urged, calling upon the legislature, judiciary and the executive to be conscious of the commitment to the basic principles of the constitution.

Manmohan Singh said the government was firmly wedded to its commitment to the social, political, economic and educational empowerment of scheduled castes and tribes, other backward classes, all minorities and all weaker sections of society, especially women.

"We cannot call ourselves an ancient civilisation and a modern nation if we cannot protect the life, the livelihood, the property and the liberty of every one of our citizens."

The prime minister expressed concern about the "resurgence" of regional and sub-regional identities in a manner that he said was not conceivable 60 years ago.

"In the interests of national integration, the political leadership at the state level in less developed regions must pay greater attention to agrarian change and development of the rural economy.

"An improvement in the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor is an important element of national integration."

Referring to his weekend visit to Kabul, he recalled that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had termed India's democratic experience as a model for the Afghan people.


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