The Centre reiterated its stance that existing laws on terror were sufficient and remained non-committal on the issue of banning the Bajrang Dal at the 14th National Integration Council (NIC) meet in New Delhi.
However, a broad consensus to contain communal discord and violence and to protect minority rights was reached at the meet on Monday.
The NIC meet was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said the country needs to deal firmly with militancy spawned by forces, who were deliberately encouraging religious clashes.
He said India was witnessing “signs of increasing fissiparous tendencies in the North East, in Jammu and Kashmir, in Orissa, Karnataka, Assam and some other parts of the country.”
The PM agreed that “mindless violence” needed to be met with the “requisite amount of force”, but cautioned that it would need to be “tempered by reason and justice”.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s speech echoed similar sentiments. He said divisive tendencies and people “should be controlled, contained and punished, if found not capable of changing their attitudes through persuasion, discussion and dialogue”.
After the NIC meet, Patil told reporters the deliberations had been “constructive”. About his spat with Orissa CM, Naveen Patnaik, on the ongoing war of letters. “There was some debate but it was not bitter,” he said, adding, “Over 40 people spoke their minds. It was an inspiring discussion. No one said anything wrong.”
The meet saw chief ministers and participants complaining how the NIC meeting should have been called earlier. While some complained that the government had finalised the agenda at the last minute.
While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and NCP chief Sharad Pawar did not attend, a clear divide was visible among states with the CMs of Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Orissa calling for more debate on terrorism and insisting that the Centre was not giving it sufficient importance.
The Samajwadi Party, CPI and CPI(M) warned against isolating Muslims and branding the community as terrorists, a view that was also echoed by the PM.