New Delhi(PTI): Under attack over 'ghar wapsi' and attacks on churches, government on Tuesday said it will not tolerate anything that disturbs communal harmony and sought to put the ball into the court of states, saying they should act against such activities as law and order is their prerogative.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh also responded to questions in Lok Sabha over conversion, saying the government wants an anti-conversion law but noted that India is the only country where minorities do not seek such a law. Replying to a debate on Demand for Grants of Home Ministry which was passed later, he responded point by point to issues raised by the opposition, including concern over attacks on churches, religious conversions, approach towards separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, left wing extremism and women safety.
Responding to concerns voiced by opposition members over churches being targeted, he asserted that government will not tolerate anything that disturbs communal harmony. "I want to assure, especially the minorities, that government will protect them with all its might," he said. Seeking to put the ball in the court of states over the issue, he said law and order was a state subject. "States should take strict action. How can the Centre intervene?" He added, "If it in happens in Delhi, we will take strict action. I think justice is not being done to the Centre if it is blamed for what happens in states."
He referred to a recent attack on a church in Agra in UP and said he was "sad" about it and added that he was not aware of what action the state government had taken on it. The Home Minister said attacks on religious places have been occurring for long and there have also been instances of vandalism and theft at temples. Hinting that the BJP government was being targeted for political reasons, he said he had figures to prove his point but refrained from making them public as he was not interested in doing politics over such a sensitive issue.
"If I was interested in political gains, I would have tabled all statistics over the issue. It would hurt feelings of many people. But it would create an unnecessary controversy... I appeal to all not to do politics over the issue," he said. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy referred to the attack on church in Agra and said, "what to do when one minority attacks another".
As some opposition members drew his attention to controversial 'haramzada' remark of Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made sometime back, Rajnath Singh was quick to disaprove it, saying "it is wrong". With regard to attack over 'ghar wapsi' (conversion) programme being carried out by some Sangh Parivar outfits, the Home Minister said the government is ready to have an anti-conversion law if opposition supports it.
"Questions are being raised about communal harmony citing 'ghar wapsi'. I will suggest that let us take a decision and if entire House agrees, let us pass an anti-conversion law," he said. "In all countries of the world, the minorities demand for an anti-conversion law but in India they don't demand it," he said. In an apparent reference to latest census figures which showed increased share of the minorities, Singh said, "India never expresses concern about changes in demographic profile.
No country will allow this change to happen." Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said comments and actions by Sangh Parivar members, including some ministers, continue despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi disapproving them. "Are they not heeding to the Prime Minister? Their modus operandi is such that they say one thing and do another," he said questioning why no action is being taken against such people.
In his 75-minute reply to a two-day debate, Singh also rejected the charge that the Narendra Modi government was soft on separatists.
As Kharge referred to hardcore separatist Masarat Alam, the Home Minister said he was put behind bars immediately after he led a pro-Pakistan protest. Singh also expressed government's commitment to rehabilitation of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley and said Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has promised to earmark 50 acres of land as a first installment for this purpose. Amid concerns expressed by many opposition members over the decision to scrap funding for police modernisation programmes for states, Singh said he had taken up the matter with the Finance Ministry even as he added that budget allocation for the ministry had seen an increase this year.
Singh also rebutted Kharge's barb at the Modi government for "weakening" Home Ministry and said the Congress leader should dispel such doubts. He contended that the government was more successful in dealing with internal security matters may it be J and K, the North East or the naxal-affected states.
The combined civilian and security personnel death toll is 2013 and 2014 was 397 and 309 respectively and it was relatively less at 79 by April 15 this year, he said adding that the Union government saw it as a "challenge" and was also ramping up developmental activities to counter maoists. The Left-wing extremism, he said, was not a challenge merely for the government but also the whole country and all parties must help in dealing with it.
The Centre had also met "success to a large extent" in tackling militancy in the North East states, he said while noting that involvement of interlocutors in talks with militants were not satisfactory.
Mentioning the recent killing of 62 tribals by a Bodi faction in Assam, Singh said such militants cannot be in engaged talks while they continue to murder innocents. He noted that more than 275 such outlaws were arrested and 10-11 of them had been killed. "It will not take a long time. We will show you results soon," he said, responding to queries of members about defusing militancy in the region.
The Home Minister termed cyber crime as a major challenge and noted that the lack of Indian servers was an issue which his government was working to address irrespective of the high cost it may incur. Speaking about the measures to deal with crimes against women, he mentioned the launch of Investigative Units on Crimes against Women, 'Himmat' app, which will soon be made available on all kinds of mobiles, and allocation of Nirbhaya fund on various initiatives.
Talking about border security measures, he said fencing of 88 per cent of the Indo-Bangladesh border was completed and also added that cattle smuggling had come down by 33 per cent under his tenure.