National Integration Council meeting fails to reach consensus on internal security
Saturday, September 10, 2011
National Integration Council meeting fails to reach consensus on internal security

By Kamala Kanta Dash

The 15th National Integration Council (NIC) discussed the pressing issues of terrorism, communalism, radicalisation of youth and possible steps to deal with these challenges to internal security but could not reach at any consensus.

The current NIC which was restructured in April 2010 now has 147 members. This national platform headed by the Prime Minister of India comprises of the members from the government and the opposition parties in the Parliament, Chief Ministers of all the States and union territories, leaders of regional parties, chairpersons of national commissions, eminent public figures and representatives from the business, media, women, religious and minority communities.  

The Ministry of Home Affairs press release yesterday had announced that “the agenda for the meeting includes measures to curb communalism and communal violence, approach to the Communal Violence Bill, measures to promote communal harmony; measures to eliminate discrimination, especially against minorities and scheduled tribes; how the State and the police should handle civil disturbances; and how to curb radicalization of youth in the name of religion and caste.” However the meeting could not arrive at a common platform as amongst other issues support to the Anti-Communal Violence Bill {Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011} was divided.

The Left parties have always supported a strong anti-communal violence bill where the BJP opposed the tone of the bill and argued that the bill divides the country as majority and minority and is designed to target the majority. Their point was that majority has been labeled as the perpetrator and the minority as the victim in all situations. Other regional leaders like Mayawati and Mamta Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik etc. have opposed the bill. Their opposition has been that the bill infringes upon the rights of states as provided under the federal arrangements of the constitution. Six different ministers chose not attend the meet for their respective political reasons. Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Oommen Chandy, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati gave a miss to the national event.

The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram stressed on the dangers of communalism and the radicalization of youth and how these are bigger threats to the internal security of the country.

Dr. Singh stressed that there can be ‘no let up in vigilance’ and asserted on the urgent need “to continuously upgrade and strengthen the investigating agencies and intelligence gathering apparatus to deal more effectively with the newer methods and technologies that terrorists and Naxals adopt.” The PM was confident that India’s democratic foundation and recent economic rise have the capacity to be inclusive and accommodate dissenting voices but expressed concern on the use of violence as a political strategy. Recognizing that the minority communities have a perception of being unfair targets by the law enforcement agencies, he urged the counter-terror practices to be fair, free of biases and prejudices.  His government, however has not been successful in last seven years to clear this perception, nevertheless this is a welcome confession by the Prime Minister of the country.   

Mr. Chidambaram wanted the NIC team to provide guidance and suggest measures particularly whether the institutions at the government and civil society level are adequate to meet these grave challenges. He further mentioned that the government urgently needs suggestions to strengthen these institutions wherever they are weak and if required create the new ones. He sounded serious but if the recent incidents of terrorism are any indication, he has more often failed to provide a resolute leadership to the counter-terror establishment of the country. His leadership role at the Delhi Police has been less than impressive though he sounded promising after he became the minister after 26/11. 

This meeting was being held after a gap of three years, last being in October 2008 before the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Now after the bomb blast on 7 September 2011 at the High Court gate in Delhi that killed 13 people and injured at least 90, the NIC meeting was expected to bring out a national consensus on fighting terrorism (i.e. extremist elements in Muslim and Hindu societies). Developing a national consensus on fighting these threats has been elusive as more often than not issues related to internal security have been politicized leading to blame one community or the other. The government has been unwilling to accept that most of the radicalisation is happening due to the failure of the justice delivery mechanism. Hope that the political parties and community leaders at the NIC would show solidarity in the cause of the common people and develop a workable consensus on how to develop a model to fight injustice and stop radicalization, remained at best still a hope. 

[The author is the founding president of INSAAN and a senior editor at OrissaDiary.com]

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