Voicing apprehensions that attempts would be made to weaken the social fabric and pluralistic ethos of the country to polarize society in the run up to 2014 Parliament election, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Monday called for unified approach by all to thwart the designs of communal elements. He appealed to all the political parties to desist from dividing communities for votes.
Expressing concern over the attempts to undermine the centuries old bonds of communal harmony and harm the secular fabric of the country, Omar Abdullah impressed upon the people of all communities to come forward jointly to preserve and promote peaceful co-existence of multiple religions, pluralistic ethos and varied cultures in the country.
“We should take a lead in promoting the feeling of oneness and respect for each other. It is the bounden duty of all of us to uphold the fundamentals of the Constitution of India and bridge the trust deficit among different communities to promote national integration”, he maintained and said that the founding fathers of the Constitution of India have underlined the need and importance of peaceful co-existence by providing people their fundamental rights irrespective of caste, colour, creed and sex.
Addressing the National Integration Council (NIC) chaired by Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh here on Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said that the agenda points pertaining to measures to promote communal harmony, tackle communal disturbances and address safety and security of women are the points of urgent concern and have rightly been selected for deliberations in today’s NIC meeting.
Referring to the communal clash in Kishtwar in the state, the Chief Minister said that before 2008 State Assembly polls efforts had been made to use the communal card and after the recent violence in Kishtwar attempts were made to spread trouble to other parts of Jammu but his government brought the situation under control within 24 hours. The J&K Chief Minister made reference to recent visit by the Prime Minister to violence hit Muzafarnagar and said that a political party described this visit as ‘secular tourism’ and said that political parties should be ‘a little less hypocritical. He said this in an apparent reference to a political leaders attempt to travel to Kishtwar during communal violence there and said if the Prime Minister’s visit has been termed as ‘secular tourism’ should the thwarted attempt of that political leader to travel to Kishtwar be called ‘communal tourism’. He said this sought of language doesn’t help.
The Chief Minister referred to the communal and sectarian clashes in Kishtwar and Budgam areas and said that the State administration took all the needed measures to contain the situation and ensure no further loss of life or property is caused. He said various measures were also taken to restore confidence among the different communities and sects. He also referred to the varied geographical regions of the State with their own unique features and said that the State Government has focussed on the equitable and inclusive development of all the regions and sub-regions of the State.
Omar Abdullah mentioned the cases of communal incidents in Jammu and Kashmir and North East states being treated separately in the NIC agenda and questioned “why are you treating us separately?”, he asked the Union Home Minister, Mr. Shinde. In response to this, Mr. Shinde said that this would be kept in mind and rectified in future.
Omar Abdullah said that communal harmony in any country and more-so for a country like India, inhabited by people of various faiths is imperative to internal peace and essentially important for development and prosperity. “Therefore a country like ours cannot make any headway on the path of development and prosperity without following the principles of mutual tolerance, peaceful co-existence and communal harmony”, he stressed. He suggested regular interactions between different communities at State and national levels, cultural exchange programmes, symposia etc. to provide opportunity to them to understand each other and learn about need for peaceful co-existence.
The Chief Minister said that Constitution of peace committees at village, panchayat, municipal and town levels comprising of civil society groups in communally sensitive areas, inclusion of topics on basic teachings of different religions in the curricula at primary school level, inclusion of teachings on communal harmony in morning prayers in the educational institutions and involvement of NGOs in the sustained campaign in this regard could be befitting measure to achieve the goal.
Omar Abdullah said that during the incidence of communal violence, the propaganda of peace inimical elements and frivolous rumours make the situation worse. He said measures should be well placed to counter the rumours by providing correct information to the masses promptly. He said social organizations and local administration have a special role to play in this direction as such these should be strengthened and encouraged to be prompt to tackle such situations. He also suggested revisiting the practice of setting up of schools and hostels exclusively for particular communities. He said that in the matters of postings and transfers, emphasis should be on posting of employees of one region to another to foster mutual understanding.
“It is equally important that students pursing studies in other states and those in other professions are provided with a conducive and safe environment to carry on their studies and professional tasks. This will be a positive step in boosting their confidence and encourage them to move to different parts of the country for seeking education, employment, business opportunities and contribute to nation building” he added and made a case for reforms in the criminal justice system to strengthen the faith and trust of common masses in the democratic institutions. He laid stress on time bound investigations in the cases particularly against women and weaker sections and also emphasised for fast track trial of cases to ensure justice in strict terms.
Highlighting the role of media in fostering a stable social order within the society, Omar Abdullah said that media in all its manifestations has been playing a constructing and crucial role. He said that a section of the media and some unscrupulous users of social networking sites often spread rumours and hurt the sentiments of different religious communities. He said that there should be no room for spreading hatred through internet or any other media.
The Chief Minister said that Jammu and Kashmir is the pluralistic, multilingual, multi-religious and multiethnic state having a rich history of amity existing between people of different faiths. “When the entire country was in the throes of partition in 1947, the communal harmony in the State provided the only ray of hope to Mahatma Gandhi”, he said adding that people of the state are conscious of the fact that the composite culture of the state known as Kashmiriyat is incomplete without the return of the Kashmiri Pandits whose exodus was witnessed during the tumult period in early 90’s. He said State Government is keen to rehabilitate and resettle Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley and accordingly in consultation with various migrant organizations, a revised proposal has been submitted to the Union Government for enhancing the ceiling for various incentives available under PM’s package announced in 2008.
“It has been proposed to enhance the cash incentive from Rs. 7.5 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh for reconstruction of house and also provision of additional 3,000 jobs for Kashmiri migrant youth who return to Valley”, he said and strongly advocated for favourable consideration of this proposal of the State Government.
Omar Abdullah also mentioned the efforts of the State Government aimed at upliftment of socially, educationally backward classes in general and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in particular. He said special cells headed by Sub Divisional Police Officers have been directed to be set up in each district to deal with the cases of harassment on SC and ST.
The Chief Minister said that Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of having one of the lowest reported cases of crime against women. “This is largely due to the moral values and cultural ethos of the Society of Jammu and Kashmir and efforts of the State administration including Police”, he said adding that for ensuring safety and security of women, the State government has taken various measures and constituted a committee of officers to register and enquire complaints promptly in this regard. He said requisite legislation has been incorporated in the law to curb crimes against women.
The Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand and State Principal Secretary Home were also present in the meeting.