Special Correspondent

“Political will needed to restore confidence in minorities”

NEW DELHI: Christian members in the National Integration Council on Tuesday said they had no reason to doubt the government’s assurance of firm action to put down communal violence but underlined that political will was needed to restore confidence in the minorities.

Admitting that the NIC had made only some promises without any resolution for concrete action, Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao said: “The majority view – which almost unanimously favoured a ban on the Bajrang Dal – has been communicated to the government.”

Asked whether the Catholic Church favoured a ban on the Bajrang Dal, he told journalists a day after the NIC meeting here: “What communal groups are doing has to be stopped. Is banning the Bajrang Dal the best way, I don’t know. It is for the government to decide.”

Chipping in, St. Stephen’s College principal Valson Thampu said: “Leave aside the ban, the law of the land is still adequate to deal with the problem. Why isn’t the law being implemented?” Instead of adopting the wait-and-watch policy in the hope that riots would run out of steam, governments should address the situation immediately.

As for Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s claim that the violence in his State was between Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and it was not a case of communal violence as was being made out, NIC member John Dayal said: “He is just twisting the truth. The two communities have been living in peace for decades till December 2007. This is a conflict that has been artificially created and we want its genesis investigated.” Further, according to Dr. Thampu, even if Mr. Patnaik’s contention was correct, “Can he stand back and watch such atrocities being committed on a community for so many weeks?”

About the rise in the number of Christians in Kandhamal, Mr. Dayal conceded the point but clarified that both Christians and Hindus had been working in the district; the former for 60 years and the latter for 40 years. “We have no quarrel with people converting to Hinduism. Everyone has a right to choose his or her faith.”

Karnataka violence

Responding to allegations that the violence in Karnataka was triggered by a ‘Christian’ pamphlet denigrating Hindu Gods, the three NIC members said the matter should be investigated. Asserting that neither the Catholic Church nor the Protestant Church had brought out the pamphlet, they pointed out that New Life – the organisation which is alleged to have issued it – denied the charge and opened itself to investigation.