Sectarian violence an attack on India’s composite culture: PM

October 13th, 2008 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) Hitting out against sectarian and communal forces, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said these were disturbing and dangerous and an assault on India’s composite culture and needed to be put down with a firm hand. Referring to the attack on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka and the communal clashes in Assam and Maharashtra last month, Prime Minister Singh said the situation was aggravated by external interests that wished to derail the essential unity of India. Ethnicity and religion, he said, were being used as arguments to stir divisions.

“Perhaps, the most disturbing and dangerous aspect today is the assault on our composite culture. Ethnic and religious communities have lived together peacefully during the past millennium,” he said.

“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 in his opening remarks at the National Integration Council (NIC) here.

“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.”

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 targetting 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.

“These need to be firmly dealt with. There is, at the same time, real need for better understanding of the forces at work,” the prime minister said, refusing to name the groups involved in the clashes.

In a hard-hitting speech, Manmohan Singh maintained that attempts to divide communities and foster hatred must be thwarted by state governments to protect democratic foundations.

“There cannot be two views on the fact that such attempts must be thwarted with the full power of a state that is intent on protecting its democratic foundations. Those who threaten our communal harmony, integrity and peaceful coexistence deserve very deterrent punishment,” he said.

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 to-day, 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.”

“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.”

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,” he said.

“We must thwart all efforts to create divisiveness in our polity to further sectarian interests. If we do not do this, we would be failing in our duty towards the toiling masses of our country who struggle every day for economic betterment and a life of dignity.”

“We would also be failing in our duty to build an India that provides our children the opportunities to realise their dreams.”

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