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PM calls for more Muslims in security forces

Singh says there is an underlying sense of insecurity among Muslims due to West erroneously linking terrorist attacks and Islam.

india Updated: Sep 24, 2006 01:06 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged regional leaders on Saturday to recruit more Muslims into the police and intelligence agencies to help counter a growing sense of insecurity in the minority community.

Singh said there was an underlying sense of insecurity among Muslims due to what he called erroneous links made by the West between terrorist attacks and Islam, leading to the entire community being tarnished.

A similar attitude was being fuelled in India as well with security agencies targeting large sections of Muslims while investigating terrorist attacks they suspect to be the work of militant Islamists, he said.

"I think it reflects a great weakness of the law-enforcing mechanism when it lines up the entire population of a locality for questioning," Singh told a conference of heads of 14 states ruled by his Congress party.

"Perhaps there is now a strong case for augmenting the number of personnel from minority communities in police forces and in the intelligence apparatus," he said in Nainital.

"We can at least try and redeploy capable officers belonging to the minority communities to sensitive areas in large numbers."

Singh's comments came a little more than two months after a series of bombs on commuter trains in Mumbai killed 186 people. The attacks were blamed on domestic Islamist militants with links across the border in Pakistan.

The July 11 bomb attacks in Mumbai prompted police raids on the city's Muslim ghettos and the detention of hundreds.

The action only helped pile on a traditional sense of alienation and persecution harboured by Muslims in the officially secular but predominantly Hindu nation, experts say.

Indian Muslims, estimated to number about 140 million in a total population of 1.1 billion, account for the world's third largest Islamic population after Indonesia and Pakistan.

Although India's secular constitution promises equal rights and opportunities to all communities, Muslims have traditionally registered lower educational levels and, as a consequence, higher unemployment rates than the majority Hindus, analysts say.

They are also grossly under-represented in public sector jobs and in the army, police and other security agencies.

On the other hand, the rise of hardline Hindu revivalist groups in the late 1980s and the global war on terrorism blamed on Islamist militants had played on their fears, they say.

Singh said the sense of insecurity among India's Muslims could have "terrible consequences for the country's polity" and called for pro-active efforts to erase it.

The prime minister also reiterated a warning about the possibility of more terrorist attacks.

"The concern is that there could be a further intensification involving use of 'fidayeen' elements," he said, referring to suicide squads of Islamist militants.

First Published: Sep 24, 2006 01:06 IST