The meeting of the National Integration Council held Monday against the backdrop of the Muzaffarnagar riots and a rise in communal conflicts was not just marked by the absence of several chief ministers but saw renewed sparring and finger-pointing between the so-called secular camp and BJP chief ministers and leaders.
Only 16 chief ministers attended the day-long conference, with Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik among those who stayed away, taking the sheen off the deliberations.
Apart from calls to monitor and regulate social media, there were not many concrete suggestions as chief ministers and political leaders sang old tunes in line with their ideological and political positions and a clear eye on the general elections.
Under attack for the way in which the riots in Muzaffarnagar were handled, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh made their presence felt, and like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad and Prakash Karat, hit out at the Sangh Parivar.
Significantly, neither Patnaik nor Jayalalithaa — whose speeches were read by their representatives — or Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra attacked the BJP although they spoke about communal tensions.
In fact, Jayalalithaa said “the sharp deceleration of economic growth in the recent past and the persistent high inflation caused in substantial measure by the gross macro-economic mismanagement of the UPA government at the Centre have also no doubt contributed to social tensions”.
Nitish Kumar said, “the number, frequency, and magnitude of religious processions are also generally increasing. These are sometimes given innovative names like ‘yatra’ or ‘parikrama’, taken out any time of the year and over a larger area. This is unwarranted”.
“Some forces fan the fire of communal tensions in order to polarise the situation in their favour,” Kumar, whose JD(U) snapped ties with the BJP recently, said referring to Muzaffarnagar.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan argued that the immediate provocation for communalism was “vote bank politics” and asserted that “a solution to this problem cannot be found