India’s composite culture under attack from sectarianism: PM (Lead)

October 13th, 2008 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said the most disturbing and dangerous aspect today was the assault on India’s composite culture and appealed to the political leadership to preserve the pluralistic framework of the country.”Perhaps, the most disturbing and dangerous aspect today is the assault on our composite culture,” Singh said in his opening remarks at the National Integration Council (NIC) here.

“Those who threaten our communal harmony, integrity and peaceful coexistence deserve very deterrent punishment. We should not be provoked to suspend or subvert a democratic process in the search for solutions,” he said.

“In the recent past, we are witnessing signs of increasing fissiparous tendencies specially in areas like the northeast, in Jammu and Kashmir, in Orissa and Karnataka, in Assam and some other parts of our country.

“Sometimes the situation is aggravated by external interests that wish to derail the essential unity of India. Further, as witnessed recently in Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Assam, we see ethnicity and religion being used as arguments to stir divisions.”

Violence continues to erupt sporadically in Orissa after the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in August led to right wing Hindu groups targeting Christians, leaving over 35 dead. Many have blamed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal for the violence.

Ethnic clashes in Assam last week claimed 55 lives.

“The chief characteristic of our civilisation has been unity in diversity. We have never attempted to impose uniformity or dilute diversity,” Singh said.

“We need to meet today’s mindless violence with the requisite amount of force, but must also ensure that this is tempered by reason and justice which is the normal order of governance.”

He underlined that ethnic and religious communities had lived together peacefully during the past millennium in India.

“Yet today, we see fault-lines developing between, and among, communities. Recent tragic events in Orissa, Karnataka and Assam have pained all right-thinking persons. There are clashes between Hindus, Christians, Muslims and tribal groups,” said Singh.

“An atmosphere of hatred and violence is being artificially generated. There are forces deliberately encouraging such tendencies and also spawning militant outfits who engage in irrational violence. These need to be firmly dealt with.”

Manmohan Singh said that attempts to divide communities and foster hatred must be thwarted by state governments to protect democratic foundations.

“There is no politics that has right to assert over the rights of the common man or the integrity of our nation. The responsibility of the political leadership is to preserve and promote this pluralistic and democratic framework.”

“I would like to appeal to all political parties to bear in mind this fundamental political responsibility that enjoins on each one of us to ensure that we not only preserve but promote the unique confluence of cultures that India has become for the past centuries.

Prime Minister Singh also pointed out that the need of the hour was reconciliation as this phase of violence was futile especially for those caught up in the vortex of today’s conflicts.

“I am stressing this point since violence seems to be permeating society today, across the length and breadth of our country - whether it be terrorist violence, whether it is violence with an ideological veneer such as that adopted by the left wing extremists or communal violence.”

Appealing to all chief ministers and other special invitees at the NIC that is being held after a gap of three years, the prime minister said all must collectively consider whether short-term narrow political ends were driving “some of us to encourage forces of divisiveness” that are today threatening the unity of our people.

“This is a time, therefore, that calls upon each one of us to collectively reassert our identity as a pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-linguistic country, whose constitution respects and upholds the freedom of all religions. We must thwart all efforts to create divisiveness in our polity to further sectarian interests,” he said.

He said: “We need to isolate and fight those who promote divisiveness. The common citizen of this country is not bigoted but generous and compassionate and nurtured in a tradition of tolerance intrinsic to all faiths that nourish our composite cultures. Let us collectively endeavour to preserve these values which the people of our country cherish.”

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