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PMO comes clean on Muslim data row

Distancing itself from the ongoing controversy, the PMO on Monday released the terms of the reference of the Rajindar Sachar Committee.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2006 19:44 IST

Distancing itself from the ongoing controversy over the statistical details of Muslim employment in the army, the PMO on Monday released the terms of the reference of the Rajindar Sachar Committee.

Headed by Justice Sachar, the sixmember committee was set up last year to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational data of the Muslim community in India.

Even as the terms of reference include looking into the relative share of Muslims in public and private sector employment, the PMO’s clarification claimed that it had not been involved in the committee’s work.

The panel is expected to submit its report in 15 months from the date of its notification that commenced from March 9, 2005.

Meanwhile, ruling out any dilution of recruitment parametres in the armed forces, army chief Gen J.J. Singh on Monday said the “army is and would remain an apolitical, secular and professional force”.

“We don’t look from where you come from, what language you speak or what religion you are in the army", he told reporters when asked to comment on reports that a high-level official committee had sought information about the number of Muslims in the armed forces.

“Our recruitment system is based on merit and ability of personnel to perform various duties efficiently and effectively,” the army told reporters here adding “everyone is given a fair chance to serve in the armed forces”.

In a two-page statement, the Rajinder Sachar Committee’s spokesman S. Zafar Mahmood refuted media allegations that any specific questions were asked from any wing of the defence forces or the ministry regarding any action that was taken by the forces ever in the past. The committee also made it clear that it had not not asked any question from the Armed Forces on the operation in Hyderabad in 1948 and the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan as reported.

Stepping up its attack on the ruling UPA, the BJP said it has decided to lead an NDA delegation to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Tuesday to lodge its protest against communalisation of the armed forces.

On the other hand, the Congress charged a section of the Opposition with deliberately raising the issue. It said the reported survey of Muslims in the armed forces was not army specific but a general fact-finding exercise.

“It is a data collection exercise cutting across the whole country,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

Expressing serious concern over reports about the government’s move to seek a census of Muslims in the armed forces, the RSS on Monday said such a step would be a “threat to India’s secular fabric”.

First Published: Feb 18, 2006 19:44 IST