Originally a forum to combat disruptive tendencies in the country, the National Integration Council (NIC) has joined the ranks of institutions that have not lived up to their promises. Instead of serving national integration, it’s now the site of political wrestling.
The one-day meeting of NIC on Monday left no doubt on this count. On the one side, BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttarakhand wanted terrorism to be included in the agenda for the meet; on the other, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) members have a very different perspective on terrorism and other matters dealt with at the meeting.
Communalism and secularism are politically polarizing concepts, the staple of electoral politics for the past decade. Such polarization has now invaded the domain of institutions such as NIC. The brainchild of Jawaharlal Nehru, NIC is unable to create consensus and reach that common ground called national interest.
Viewed thus, NIC appears to be losing relevance, though the problems that it was meant to solve continue to exist. But this might be unfair, given that Indian politics has a tendency to invade every council, chamber and forum and then ruin it. NIC is no exception. At the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that NIC has been used as an instrument of patronage: All manner of “eminent personalities”, who would otherwise have remained unknown, have graced its meetings. Both kinds of politics, that of electoral gains and the one of patronage, have rained hammer blows on NIC.
Consider the present context. On the one hand, violence in states such as Orissa and Karnataka is communal in intent and origin; on the other hand, all terrorist episodes point to the involvement of some misguided members of a minority community. The terrorist violence has mostly occurred in the BJP-ruled states —Rajasthan, Karnataka and Orissa. Clearly, the issue of communalism and terrorism is linked. The issue is how to define the link. The BJP prefers to highlight the terrorism aspect while the UPA stresses the problem of communalism. The result is a dead-end that NIC is unable to resolve. It’s time the need for such institutions is assessed carefully.
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