Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday defended his Cabinet colleague, Communications Minister A. Raja, whose alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum matter, has drawn fire.

Pointing out that Mr. Raja had publicly discussed the matter, giving “a long interview to The Hindu,” Dr. Singh said, “Mr. Raja told me that what he did was to implement a policy which was in place, that he had the recommendations of TRAI and of the Telecom Commission supporting a course of action.”

He, however, added that if the CBI, which was investigating the complaints against Mr. Raja, came up with something incriminating, then the government would take action. “I would like to say that our government has been very clear right from the beginning that corruption is a problem,” the Prime Minister said, adding, “if I come to know that there is any involvement at any level in corruption, we will take action.”

Caste-based census

On the controversial issue of a caste-based census, he reiterated the position he had taken in Parliament that the government would “take into account the views expressed by various sections of opinion.” But he clarified that no decision had been taken as yet.

On issues relating to internal security, Dr. Singh was circumspect. On Naxalism, which drew several questions, he admitted that the magnitude of the problem demanded intervention by the Centre, which “must help the States in every possible way. He refused to share anything further, saying, “These are strategy issues which will be discussed in the appropriate forum of the Cabinet.”

To a question on “Hindu terror,” the Prime Minister sought to de-hyphenate the expression, saying terrorism had no religion, stressing that his government would deal with terrorism — whether sponsored by Hindus or Muslims — with the same vigour.

He dismissed the description of India as a soft state — for delaying the execution of Afzal Guru, convicted in the Parliament attack case — as subjective. The bottom line, he said, was that the law of the land would prevail.

Dr. Singh made a forceful intervention on the need to uphold human rights. To a suggestion that action should be taken against human rights activists who were “defending” Naxalites, he said, “In a democracy, all individuals have the right to express their views, as long as they don't advocate violence.”

To another question on the lack of action against the killers of five innocent Kashmiris in Panchalthan, despite a CBI report on the subject, the Prime Minister promised to look into the case, stressing, “our government has zero tolerance for violation of human rights of all our citizens.”

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