A fortnight ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had heard Muslim leaders articulate the community's sense of insecurity after terror attacks in the country. On Tuesday, Singh echoed their concerns before chief ministers at an internal security conference and cautioned them to the "deleterious" consequences of this feeling for the country.
The thrust of the Prime Minister’s message to the states, including those ruled by the BJP, was that the best way to fight terrorism - besides the police response - was by not creating an environ where terror elements would have nurseries of support.
Singh's call found an echo in Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's address. Azad spoke of ways to reduce harassment of Kashmiris in and out of the country.
Gujarat's Narendra Modi, however, did not share this perspective. He argued that viewing terrorism from the mindset of communal harmony would encourage separatists and terrorists. Modi patted his own back for effectively "striking at the roots of terrorism".
Before dwelling upon the political side of his two-pronged speech, the PM had shared with the chief ministers the government's grave threat perception based on intelligence reports.
The PM told them these reports spoke of the possibility of more fidayeen attacks, use of suicide bombers, attacks on economic and religious targets and targeting of vital installations including nuclear establishments.
"Reports also suggest that terrorist modules and 'sleeper cells' exist in some of our urban areas, all of which highlight the seriousness of the threat," he said.
As he emphasised that the states gear up to counter "further intensification" of violent activities, the PM indicated that the states were not doing enough to build their capacity to face these challenges. He sought the "personal involvement" of the chief ministers to co-opt the public to act as counter-terrorist wardens to report unusual activity.
Singh was equally emphatic that respect for fundamental human rights of citizens, particularly of minority communities, should be a "core concern" of the law enforcement agencies in dealing with terrorism.
"It is unfortunate that terrorism has resulted in certain sections of our population being targeted, with the result that a wrong impression has been created of the radicalisation of the entire Muslim community," Singh said. He asked the chief ministers to proactively ensure that a few individual acts did not result in tarnishing the image of an entire community. "You must remove any feelings of persecution and alienation from the minds of the minorities," he said.
The PM's advice was in line with his commitment to the conference of Muslim scholars in August to take "concrete steps" to address their concerns. Singh had reiterated this commitment to a delegation of minority MPs who had called on him subsequently to raise similar concerns.