‘There have never been clashes in India… Shootings etc are a global phenomenon… work of individual psychopaths. What can govt do?’

While the National Commission for Minorities recently said that it “has taken prompt action on all communal clashes/issues in the country”, listing Patiala, Jodhpur and Bhopal, chairperson Iqbal Singh Lalpura says none of the incidents were “communal in nature’’. A former IPS officer, Lalpura served in various capacities in Punjab before joining the BJP after his retirement in 2012.

Excerpts from an interview with Esha Roy:

In the past month, several incidents of communal clashes have been reported across the country. What is your assessment of the situation?

None of these are communal clashes. They were carried out by criminals and anti-social elements who are trying to create problems and disturb peace. Communities are living in peace across the country. The clashes in Patiala were not between Hindus and Sikhs, but between two small groups. It was a similar case in Jahangirpuri in Delhi as well. I visited the area and met members of both communities. They informed me that they have been living together in peace for years, celebrating each other’s festivals… In Khargone in Madhya Pradesh it was the same case. All criminals in Khargone have already been arrested. These anti-social elements do not represent the communities nor are they their elected representatives.

But the statement by your office talked of taking prompt action ‘on all communal clashes in the country’?

In our statement, we have taken into account the allegations… These clashes are not communal and this is not the real story. Police need to investigate the cause of these incidents and the conspiracy behind them.

What action has the commission taken so far regarding the clashes?

We have taken prompt action. We have asked police to submit reports on the Patiala, Jahangirpuri, Jodhpur and Khargone incidents to us. On April 13, the NCM called for reports from the chief secretaries of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar following a presentation regarding growing atrocities on minorities. A report has been received from the Government of West Bengal and the matter has been forwarded to the DGP, West Bengal, for investigation. Reports from the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Bihar are still awaited. It takes the police at least 60-90 days to properly investigate such incidents and they should not be rushed if we want a thorough investigation.

Most of the recent clashes were linked to religious processions. Does this need to be looked at?

Processions have been taken out by different communities since time immemorial, and they have the right to do so. We have suggested that committees be set up at city and district levels, with representatives of all religious communities, that can discuss and plan these (processions) and learn about each other’s religions and festivities.

All processions should be taken out with prior permission from police. Police should also have detailed information about these processions so that crimes can be prevented – this is definitely not happening right now. It is lapse on the police’s part; there is something lacking. In some instances, police have been a mute spectator.

Properties of members of a particular community have been bulldozed in the aftermath of the clashes…

I have no information that homes or establishments of a particular community have been razed as a form of punishment. Removing encroachments is part of the duty of the administration. Encroachments are illegal and need to be dealt with, and local administrations do so regularly.

In April, nearly nine states reported clashes. Is this a matter of concern for the Commission?

We are concerned for the lives and property of every individual of every community. India has always been a peaceful country. There have never been clashes in India… This (the clashes) is a global phenomenon. There have been incidents in France, England and shootings in schools in America. It’s the work of individual psychopaths. What can the government do?

Do you see infringement on the rights of the minorities, whether it’s loudspeakers or allegations of love jihad?

The use of loudspeakers is not a question of the majority or minority community. It is a question of noise pollution. Everyone needs to follow the law and restrain themselves. Your rights can’t infringe on the lives of others.

As far as love jihad is concerned, nobody is against consensual marriages. What we are against are forcible marriages, where the girl is misled and compelled to convert. There are many – Sharmila Tagore, Omar Abdullah – who married outside of their communities, but is there any uproar over it? In my own family, members have married outside the faith. But these have all been consensual.

The consent of parents is also important. As a police officer, I have seen that the highest number of divorces take place in love marriages, while arranged marriages are far more successful. As much as we would like, the difference in treatment of men and women in our society persists, and therefore we need to protect our girls. We need to protect our culture and traditional systems of family values.

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