President Pranab Mukherjee’s stress on communal peace on Thursday comes in the backdrop of the country witnessing the highest loss of lives in 2012 due to communal violence after the UPA came to power in 2004.
Nearly 185 people died in the country, most of them in Assam, Uttar Pradesh Maharashtra during the first 10 months for which official statistics are available. The highest death toll in communal violence earlier was in 2006 when 133 people lost their lives.
The Home Ministry, however, has kept figures of communal violence toll low by excluding the 99 killed during the Assam violence, beginning July.
Incidentally, the Home Ministry been shy of classifying the string of violence in Assam as communal violence.
Mukherjee came close on Thursday when he addressed the joint session of Parliament and spoke of the government’s determination to “thwart any attempt at disturbing our communal peace and harmony”. In the same breath, Mukherjee went on to recall the violence in some districts of Assam in July 2012, “in which about hundred persons were killed”.
Outside Assam, every third death in a communal incident in the country in 2012 occurred in UP, killing 34 people in the state as compared to 89 people elsewhere.
The increase in incidents and deaths was enough to worry the Prime Minister too.
PM Manmohan Singh told a conference of police chiefs this September that the communal situation was “already showing some signs of deterioration”. Singh had named UP, along with Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala that were high on his list of worries.
NC member disrupts the speech
In a clear sign of growing discontent and anger in the National Conference over Afzal Guru’s hanging, party Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri on Thursday disrupted President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech in Parliament.
When the President began his address to the joint session of parliament, Ratanpuri interrupted demanding the return of not only Afzal Guru’s body but also the mortal remains of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat, who was hanged in 1984 and is also buried inside Tihar jail.