Sunday, August 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Minorities panel to summon Ratra
Move to check fallout of Malout incident
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 10
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has decided to summon Punjab Chief Secretary Y.S. Ratra and other senior officials armed with all reports and information to stall another religious conflagration erupting in the state.

After carefully examining last month’s Malout incident in which the law and order machinery had to resort to firing, the full board of the NCM, headed by Justice Mohammed Shamim, decided that expeditious steps were required to rein in self-styled religious leaders whipping up communal passions.

A formal communication in this regard will be sent to the Punjab Government by NCM secretary Sarita Das. She has been directed to liaise closely with Mr Ratra and others in the state government and submit a preliminary report to the NCM board on the Malout incident.

This is a prelude to summoning Mr Ratra and other senior Punjab Government officials by the NCM. Considering the urgency attached to the matter, the date for Mr Ratra’s meeting with the NCM will be decided after the Chief Secretary returns from an official tour to the USA early next week. Mr Ratra is part of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s entourage.

Concerned about the dangerous portends of the Malout incident, the NCM board discussed at length here yesterday that religious issues of the minority Sikh community invariably went out of hand leading to bloodshed between different groups. There is also the problem of fundamentalist and militant elements vitiating the atmosphere by seeking to be defenders of the Sikh faith.

The NCM board firmly believes that the Malout incident should not be allowed to become another minority problem in Punjab and must be nipped in the bud. The board noted that religious problems in Punjab right, from the days of the Gurdwara Movement in 1919-1920, had a tendency to reach boiling point and turn into a tragedy. Using religion to propitiate personal interests must be stopped. Such tendencies must be avoided and an atmosphere of peace, calm and harmony be maintained, the board stated.

The NCM board also considered the letter of the Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann. He drew the commission’s attention to the Sikh public opinion being strongly against the firing incident on peaceful Sikhs at Malout on July 31. “The Sikhs feel that the Government of India, its intelligence agencies and the Congress government are hand in glove in grooming schismatic cults among the Sikhs,” Mr Mann observed.

Further, he said when such cults offended Sikh religious sensibilities, the Sikhs had no option but to confront them in a peaceful manner to begin with and when the state resorted to violence and repression, the Sikhs tried to pay back in the same coin.

Mr Mann appealed to the NCM to hold an “impartial probe into these feelings of the Sikhs and set their suspicions right against the government’s underhand operations to destabilise the Sikh religion.”

The NCM finds it worrisome that the Malout incident has brought to the fore certain groups known to be supporting militants. These groups, going by different new names, had been lying low in Punjab.


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