Home ministry plans communal harmony cell

The new unit will provide a platform where community leaders can talk and sort out differences

New Delhi: The Union home ministry is planning to set up a separate unit to foster communal harmony through dialogue among different communities.

The ministry will draft a proposal and forward it to the finance ministry seeking allocation of additional funds for the unit.

The move appears to be in reaction to the recent incident of lynching in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, which has stoked communal tension in the region.

The new unit will provide a platform where community leaders can talk and sort out differences, said a senior home ministry official requesting anonymity.

“We have observed that lack of communication and interaction between community leaders and elders is an important reason for communal tension to flare up. A lot of these issues can be sorted out by proper dialogue between representatives of various communities and we plan to set up a body to facilitate this which will help maintain communal harmony," the official said.

The human rights division of the home ministry, which deals with matters regarding communal harmony, national integration and Ayodhya, will soon start drafting the proposal.

“The idea is to have such communal harmony units in every district. We will soon start working on the draft and will interact with various stakeholders following which the proposal will be forwarded to the finance ministry for allocation of funds," added the official.

According to home ministry data, there have been 330 incidents of communal violence in the country till June this year as against 252 in the same period last year.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power in May last year and has been criticized by the opposition for its failure to maintain communal harmony.

The opposition has dismissed the latest initiative of the NDA. “This can be seen as one more bureaucratic set-up to address an issue like this, but the fact remains that when the political leadership itself is playing with fire, how do such steps help? The ruling alliance is indulging in instigation and no new set-up will help the situation," said Shakeel Ahmad, senior spokesperson of the Congress party.

“While it looks like there is a political party which is fishing in troubled waters, the Prime Minister of the country has chosen to maintain silence on an extremely sensitive issue like this," he added.

However, the Union government had responded late on Monday evening by issuing a terse advisory saying, “The Ministry of Home Affairs has been concerned with various incidents with communal overtones across the country, including the recent unfortunate incident at Dadri, UP. There is zero tolerance for any attempt to weaken the secular fabric of the nation and exploiting religious emotions or sentiments. Strictest action should be taken as per law against such elements without any exception whatsoever."

Political analysts feel that while incidents like Dadri could influence the discourse of the forthcoming assembly elections in Bihar, they make a case for greater political intervention.

“This will not work, it is nothing more than just scratching the surface. We require not just greater political intervention, but also a strong political will to address such issues. The big task here is to non-communalize the communalized spaces," said Badri Narayan, a political science professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“It is already becoming an issue in Bihar elections and leaders like Lalu Prasad are making statements on it. Politically, it could affect both the Samajwadi Party (ruling party) in Uttar Pradesh and the BJP," he added.

Both the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal have accused the BJP of trying to communalize the Bihar elections.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh state government in its report to the home ministry on the 28 September lynching incident in Dadri has said that the victim, Mohammed Akhlaq, and his son Danish were attacked by a mob of “around 100-200 people over rumours" that they had consumed “pratibandhit pashu ka maans" (meat of an animal banned from slaughter).

The report added that six persons have been arrested so far in connection with the killing while investigations into the case were still going on.

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