NIC witness spat between Patil and Orissa CM over central force

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New Delhi, Oct 13 (UNI) The National Integration Council meeting today witnessed a spat between Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik when the latter demanded more forces to deal with incidents of violence against minorities in Kandhmal.

On Mr Patnaik's demand, the Home Minister pointed out that the Centre had sent nine battalions while the state had just demanded four.

In reply to this, the Chief Minister said the forces came five days late and the helicopters arrived even later. Ten of the companies consisted of only trainees who were ''of no use.'' On this, an agitated Mr Patil said the Centre had to withdraw forces from the international borders to send them to Orissa. The state government could have easily redeployed the forces available with it in other districts to violence-affected Kandhmal.

''I had even offered you aircraft to move the forces,'' he said adding that he had to make these clarifications so that people understood the correct picture.

The NIC unanimously condemned the rising incidents of communal violence and attacks on minorities and resolved to promote and protect secularism, equality, justice -- social, economic and political -- and fraternity among all communities.

Later talking to reporters, Mr Patnaik charged the Centre with delay in sending paramilitary forces to the state to contain violence against minorities in Kandhmal and said the state government has arrested thousands of people for indulging in violence, including Bajrang Dal activists.

Asked whether he would demand a ban on Bajrang Dal, the Chief Minister said it was a decision which the Centre has to take.

Denying that Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Central leaders were not allowed into the state while VHP leader Pravin Togadia visited Kandhmal, he said Mr Togadia was a VHP colleague of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and went immediately after his murder to participate in cremation. He said Mr Patil went while Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal could not go there as his helicopter could not take off from Kolkata due to bad weather.

Stating that there was a delay in Central forces reaching the state, he said the violence started on September 23, while the Central forces reached on September 26. He also denied the Home Minister's charge that the forces were not used effectively by the state government.

Regarding his compromising his secular credentials, Mr Patnaik said, ''The truth will prevail in the end.'' UNI AJ BDP CS2028

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