India wants progress, but not at the cost of communal amity, says Nitish
"What happened in Muzaffarnagar is a matter of deep concern. We cannot allow this violence to spread all over the country," said Nitish Kumar.
In a thinly veiled reference to Narendra Modi, BJP's Prime Minister candidate for the 2014 general elections, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said that the people of India want progress, but not at the cost of communal amity.
Alongside good governance and progress, there is need to strengthen a culture wherein India's plurality and diversity are vibrantly represented, Nitish Kumar said at the meeting of the National Integration Council (NIC) in the national capital.
The Bihar Chief Minister voiced concern over the frequency and magnitude of religious processions, which are "sometimes given innovative names like yatra and parikrama".
He also flagged the issue of low representation of minorities in police and armed forces, and the need for their overall social, educational and economic upliftment.
Communal riots are the "acid test of neutrality and objectivity" of the police and law-enforcing authorities, he said.
"What happened in Muzaffarnagar (in Uttar Pradesh) is a matter of deep concern. We cannot allow this violence to spread all over the country. Some forces fan the fire of communal tensions in order to polarise the situation in their favour. This kind of political thinking completely stuns me," he said.
"Communal amity, social harmony and inclusive growth are the foundation of a progressive India. Until we strengthen the tapestry of communal amity and social harmony, we cannot have economic development on an enduring basis. We will need to adopt an inclusive approach to all sections of our people," he said.
"For communal amity, all of us have to be vigilant against those seeking to unravel this national consensus... all political parties have a crucial role in this scenario," Nitish Kumar said.
"The police force has to be trained to develop a mindset which enables them to rise above caste, creed or religion in situations of conflict and violence. Those perpetrating communal violence should be investigated and booked under the most stringent provisions of law and put to speedy trial," he said.
He said his government had decided to raise anti-riot battalions in each district, and said tackling situations of communal conflict required a nuanced approach and orientation of the police force.
"A multi-party democracy invariably leads to competitive politics aimed at cornering a larger share of votes. But we must ask whether it should necessarily lead to a passionate pursuit of a divisive agenda. Doing so may deliver short gains for some, but it eventually leads to the weakening of the basic premise of our nation itself," Nitish Kumar said, adding that whenever there was communal violence, more often than not, the anti-social elements drew strength from collusion with the political class.