Politicians come under attack from civil society at NIC meet

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New Delhi, Oct 13 (UNI) Politicians as a class came under severe attack at the one-day meeting of the National Integration Council (NIC) here today, with speaker after speaker accusing them of failing to act to protect India's pluralist society and safeguarding the interests of minorities and other vulnerable sections.

"The litmus test of any democracy is how it looks after the welfare and security of its minorities. On this score, India is failing," Dr Valsan Thampu, Principal of the St Stephen's College in Delhi, said.

Referring to the recent attacks on minorities in Orissa, Karnataka and other states, Dr Thampu said what was at stake today was the very future of India's secular democracy.

He said unless the government was prepared to "move away from the paralysis of the will to act" in such matters, nothing much would be achieved by exercises such as today's meeting.

He told the government that since the last meeting of the NIC more than three years ago, the "sickness had only progressed." In an equally hard-hitting speech, eminent jurist Fali S Nariman said disruption of Parliament by its members and their unruly behaviour were part of the problem.

He said the recent incidents, at a time when the "baton was passing to Asia" in terms of economic and political power, spoke of an "uncivilised society." He called for greater attention to education to create better citizens. "Education is a way of transmitting civilisation," he said.

He deplored the hate-speeches by politicians and others around the country. "Hate speak begets violence and violence begets more violence," he pointed out.

Mr Nariman, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, also expressed himself against the banning of organisations and, instead, called for "preaching of tolerance." He said instead of banning organisations, the government must launch prosecution against those responsible for communal violence.

Social activist Asghar Ali Engineer reminded the government that it had failed to keep its promise of convening the NIC at least once a year.

Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral L Ramdas regretted that people had become intolerant of each other.

Gandhian S N Subba Rao criticised the government for not finding the time and money to support "peace-building activities". He said resources must be spent on strengthening goodwill among different sections of society and special programmes must be launched among the youth to tap their full potential.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh suggested the NIC must set up a permanent working group to undertake various activities.

Former bureaucrat Moosa Raza regretted the "demonisation of an entire community" in the name of investigations into the recent blasts in Delhi and other cities.

Former Union Minister Karan Singh said the government must, if necessary, strengthen existing laws to handle such incidents. He also called for a stronger inter-faith movement in the country to bolster secular values. In particular, he stressed the need for value-based education for school and college students.


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