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Riots and wrongs

india Updated: Oct 26, 2008 23:31 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik
Soumyajit Pattnaik
Hindustan Times
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The Centre has revised the guidelines on maintenance of communal harmony keeping in view the “new and emerging challenges”. The earlier guidelines were formulated and intimated to the state governments in 1997.

In a recent letter to the Orissa Government, Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta has written, “Keeping in view the past experience, new and emerging challenges, developments in technology, etc, it was felt that the guidelines need to be reviewed. The related issues have also been discussed, from time to time, in conferences/meetings of chief ministers and chief secretaries/directors general of police, National Integration Council, etc. Based on these, revised Guidelines on Communal Harmony have been formulated.”

Gupta has mentioned in his letter that if due vigilance is maintained, careful planning done and preparatory measures put in place, many possible incidents of communal violence can be pre-empted and prevented; and, wherever, despite this, communal violence does occur, it can be contained effectively.

Gupta’s letter has said, “It is with this in mind that a variety of actions and institutional arrangements have been suggested in the guidelines, which would need to be implemented at various levels from the police stations to the state government level.” The letter, of course, cautions: “The Guidelines are only illustrative and there will always be scope for further initiatives and creative interventions and measures.”

According to the guidelines, the district administration should carefully assess the communal situation in the district on a regular basis and prepare a profile of the district. It should identify and specify areas which are prone to communal sensitivities and tensions in the light of the demographic profile, the existence of any structures, monuments around which there may be existing or potential disputes or controversies, etc.

Based on these, and any other relevant factors, specific areas should be identified as sensitive/hyper-sensitive and the position in this regard should be periodically reviewed and updated. Details as above should also be systematically maintained at each police station concerned.

The Station House Officers and other senior officials at the police station level should keep a close watch on the situation in such areas, apart from periodically visiting them for promoting public contact and interface with the civilian population and community leaders.