Ajmer Singh, NDTV.COM, Friday, June 23, 2006 (New Delhi):
Communal prejudice and a bias against minorities should not be acceptable in theory or practise and perceptions need to be altered through a systemic change of school textbooks, police training and the creation of special courts.
These are the recommendations of a Working Group on Communal Riots, which will now submit its proposals to the Prime Minister.
National Integration Council's Working Group on Communal Riots has studied reports of over 30 commissions of inquiry into riots.
And now, the group is likely to recommend that references to minorities in school history books, which encourage a bias against them, be removed.
The group is giving final touches to the report, which will be submitted by July 11 to the National Integration Council.
"It will be mandatory for the police to understand the country's secular fabric," said Sriprakash Jaiswal, MOS (Home), Chairman, Working Group on Communal Riots.
The group wants that only officers with secular credentials be appointed as DCs and SSPs and once appointed, they should not be easily transferred.
Also, only special courts should handle cases of communal violence and in a time-bound manner. Commissions of inquiries probing cases of riots should also give time-bound reports.
To prevent politicians from taking advantage of communal divides, the group recommends that MPs and MLAs be elected only after securing 50 per cent of votes cast.
"The committee feels that it should be made mandatory that politicians obtain 50 per cent of votes for getting elected as MP and MLAs. This would ensure that votes are not sought in the name of religion and caste," added Jaiswal.
Among the observations made by the group are:
* India's partition is being ascribed to a minority community.
* Teachers unwittingly pass on their prejudices to their pupils.
* There is a need to strengthen the role of women in society, as women rarely take part in riots.
* Religious rituals during official/unofficial ceremonies damage secular traditions.
* Disputes surrounding graveyards are being taken lightly by the administration.
* References to invasions in our history books create prejudices against minorities.
The report calls for greater sensitivity in issues related to minorities. The question is will it help change realities on the ground? The answers lie perhaps in the blueprint that is being drawn up.