New Delhi, Jan 13 IANS | 2 years ago

Both majority and minority communities in the country should work together to maintain harmony, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday, adding that "aberrations" in communal harmony "tarnish the image of our country".

Addressing the annual conference of state minority commissions here, the prime minister also warned against those who "work against India's secular thought by attempting to redefine secularism".

"To maintain communal harmony, both majority communities and minorities have to work together to create an atmosphere of acceptance and harmony," he said.

"In most parts of the country, the relationship between the majority and minority communities is harmonious although there have been instances where this relationship has been put to severe test, especially of late.

"These aberrations tarnish the image of our country and our society. They cause pain and suffering to the affected people," he said.

The communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh last year left more than 60 people dead and left thousands homeless.

Stressing that "pluralism is the keystone of India's civilization and culture" and "religious harmony, not mere tolerance, is the bedrock of India's secularism", Manmohan Singh said his government had set up a number of institutions to "ensure that minorities should not only be provided adequate safeguards, but also given equal access to development opportunities".

He said 17 State Minorities Commissions were in existence and more such commissions were being planned in other states.

The prime minister spoke about the National Minorities Development and Finance Corp (NMDFC), which provides concessional finance for self-employment activities to members of minority communities.

He said the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) had been set up to protect the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

The prime minister said the efforts of the government in the last nine years had shown "visible results but a lot more also needs to be done".

He said the government had been able "to persuade the private sector to some extent to take affirmative action in favour of minorities as part of their corporate social responsibility".

But while some minorities had benefitted from the economic development, "other minorities, especially the Muslim community in certain parts of our country, have not had an equal share of the fruits of development", he said.

This, he said, had been established by the data provided in the report of the Sachar Committee.

The government, he added, had accepted 72 of the 76 recommendations of the Sachar Committee.

"I think it is of utmost importance to remember that we have age old traditions of pluralism and tolerance. For India as a country, secularism has been a way of life practiced over centuries.

"We should be cautious of people who work against India's secular thought by attempting to redefine secularism."

(Posted on 13-01-2014)