With the recent ethnic clashes in Assam and exodus of north-east Indians from Bangalore and other cities still fresh in people’s mind, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has warned against “erosion in inter-community relations” in the country and expressed concern over misuse of social media to aggravate the communal situation.

“The use of bulk SMSs and social media to aggravate the communal situation is a new challenge that the recent disturbances have thrown before us…we need to devise strategies to counter the propaganda that is carried out by these new means. Any measure to control the use of such media must be carefully weighed against the need for the freedom to express and communicate,” Dr. Singh told the State Police and intelligence chiefs and heads of paramilitary forces on Saturday

Addressing the three-day DGPs/IGPs conference that concluded here, the Prime Minister blamed the decline in the capacities of general and police administration for “erosion in inter-community relations” and asked the State police chiefs to re-orient their forces to “effectively track the sentiments of the people and inter-community tensions as they rise.”

“Advance identification of potential troublemakers, timely use of preventive sections of the law, alongside seeking cooperation of the community for maintaining peace, should be the first instruments to be deployed, well before the situation deteriorates. It is particularly important to obtain assistance of saner elements of the society to marginalise those who are overtly intolerant and aggressive,” he added.

Referring to the increase in communal incidents in the past few months and revival of ethnic tensions in the north-east, Dr. Singh said: “The ethnic disturbances of the north-east assumed a national dimension with the flight of people belonging to the north-east from various towns of south and western India. This further strained the communal situation in the country, which was already showing some signs of deterioration, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.”

Referring to the problems of Left-wing extremism, Dr. Singh said Maoists were gradually increasing their numbers and enhancing their “military potential.” He asked the Left-wing extremism-affected States to improve their police-population ratio, strengthen police infrastructure and equip the forces with better weapons.

Stressing the need for pre-empting terror strikes, he said: “Realignment of operational approaches, training of police personnel and more effective collaboration among States and between States and the Centre should form part of our overall strategy of dealing with the menace of terrorism.”

Cyber crime

Asking police officers to dedicate themselves to planned technological upgrading of their forces, the Prime Minister said India’s vulnerability to cyber crime was escalating as economy and critical infrastructure became increasingly reliant on interdependent computer networks and the Internet.

“Large-scale computer attacks on our critical infrastructure and economy can have potentially devastating results. The government is working on a robust cyber security structure that addresses threat management and mitigation, assurance and certification, specially building capacity and enhancing research,” he added.

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