It will find ways to curb radicalisation of youth

Even as the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC)-drafted Communal Violence Bill is being scrutinised by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the National Integration Council (NIC), presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will discuss on September 10 a host of issues relating to communal harmony, discrimination, civil disturbances and terror, including, crucially, the approach to this proposed controversial law.

The NIC's members will gather here after a hiatus of a month short of three years (it met last on October 13, 2008) – and three days after the latest terrorist act outside the Delhi High Court – to find ways and means to curb radicalisation of youth in the name of religion and caste.

The four points listed in the letter sent to the NIC members are: one, communal harmony and measures to curb communalism and communal violence, the approach to the Communal Violence Bill, and measures to promote communal harmony; two, discrimination, specially against the minorities and tribals and measures to eliminate such acts of discrimination; three, civil disturbances and how the State and the police should handle them; and finally, four, the radicalisation of youth in the name of religion and caste and how to curb such radicalisation.

The meeting, informed sources said, should attract attention for at least two reasons: one, it will be interesting to see whether the Chief Ministers respond positively to the idea of creating a National Authority and State authorities to ensure both accountability of public officials as well as to ensure justice and reparation in the wake of communal violence (a key provision in the National Advisory Council draft) or reject it because it would limit the powers of State governments when dealing with communal violence; and two, whether the principal Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is able to torpedo the group definition of minorities in the same draft.

Even within the NAC, the Bill had generated a lengthy debate on whether the group definition of minorities should remain in the draft — and the final verdict was in the affirmative. Sources in the NAC said at the time that “while everybody felt that the intellectually and morally correct position was to centre the Bill on the minorities because of the institutional bias against them, some members pointed out that it was a politically volatile issue, and retaining the word may make it difficult to get it past the political right in Parliament.”

This will be the first time the 147-member strong NIC – after its reconstitution in April 2010 – will meet after P. Chidambaram took over as Union Home Minister. The significance of the NIC, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, lies in its membership – which includes Union Ministers, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and all Chief Ministers, apart from leaders of national and regional political parties, chairpersons of National Commissions, mediapersons, public figures, business leaders and representatives of women's organisations.

The reconstituted NIC had 14 Union Ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar, A.K. Antony, P. Chidambaram, M. Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni, Farooq Abdullah, Mukul Wasnik, Salman Khurshid and Krishna Tirath. Mamata Bannerjee, who was included as a Union Minister, will attend as West Bengal Chief Minister; Kantilal Bhuria and Dayanidhi Maran, two other members, are no longer Ministers. Interestingly, the eminent public figures in the NIC include the former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, currently lodged in Tihar jail.

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