The all-party meeting convened Saturday by Home Minister Rajnath Singh against the backdrop of the Pulwama terrorist attack saw political parties putting up a united face, and condemning terrorism “in all forms”. Without naming Pakistan, the meeting held the neighbouring country responsible for encouraging and supporting terrorism.
The leaders vowed to speak in “one voice” to fight these challenges, and came out with a measured resolution that also provided the government with elbow room to decide the next course of action.
Sources said barring Union Minister Ramdas Athawale and Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut who called for aggressive action by the government, the others refrained from making provocative suggestions. Athawale is learnt to have likened India to a tiger and Pakistan to a cat, and called for war as a response. His suggestion was not taken seriously.
Show of unity, easing of pressure
The all-party meeting was an attempt by the government to take the Opposition parties into confidence and to help them understand better the situation on the ground. It sent out a signal of national consensus and unity on fighting terrorism to Indians and the world, even as parties brace for the fierce election battle ahead. The meeting also eased, in a way, the pressure on the government to act under provocation from agitated people across the country.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad asked Singh to urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convene a meeting of the presidents of all major national and regional parties, a view that was supported by Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress and D Raja of the CPI.
While backing the government overall, the opposition did, however, seek changes in the resolution drafted by the government.
The final resolution read: “India has during the past three decades faced the menace of cross border terrorism. Of late, terrorism in India is being actively encouraged by the forces across the border. India has displayed both firmness and resilience in dealing with these challenges. The entire nation speaks in one voice to express its determination to fight these challenges. Today we stand united in solidarity with our security forces in fighting terrorism and in defending the unity and integrity of India.”
Sources said that a line about a “firm response” in the original resolution was removed after opposition parties raised objections. Opposition sources said the government’s draft resolution had also spoken of parties standing with security forces, and “efforts of the central and state governments”. But the mention of the central and state governments was dropped at the suggestion of the TMC and the Congress.
As a consequence, the line “Today we all resolve to stand with our security forces and efforts of the Central and State Governments to ensure that these challenges are suitably and firmly responded to” was changed to read: “Today we stand united in solidarity with our security forces in fighting terrorism and in defending the unity and integrity of India”.
Trinamool sources said a “carte blanche” to the government would have effectively made the Opposition party to not only a decision such as limited aggression or fullscale war against Pakistan, but also to an internal decision such as the imposition of Emergency or postponement of the Lok Sabha elections.
The resolution also condemned “terrorism in all forms and the support being given to it from across the border”, while standing with the families of the CRPF personnel in their hour of grief.
Despite having been called at short notice by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, most parties barring the DMK and PDP sent representatives to the meeting. Among those present were Azad, Anand Sharma, Jyotiraditya Scindia and K C Venugopal from the Congress, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, TMC’s O’Brien and Sudip Bandopadhyay, Surender Nagar of SP, Satish Mishra of BSP, CPI’s Raja, and T K Rangarajan of CPM.
Several leaders also raised the issue of harassment and targeting of Kashmiri students reported from many parts of the country, and asked the government to ensure there was no communal polarisation in the wake of the terrror attack.
Abdullah is learnt to have said that the attack should not be turned into a Hindu-Muslim issue with the coming elections in mind. Azad, who like Abdullah is a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, pointed out that it was important to keep the country united, and argued that divisions would only weaken India in this moment of crisis.
Raja urged the government to ensure the safety of Kashmiris, wherever they are in the country. Abdullah suggested that the PM should pay personal attention to the situation in the country after the attack, TDP MP K Ram Mohan Naidu, who attended the meeting, told The Sunday Express.
Abdullah is learnt to have said that the security forces should and must go hard at terrorists, but must not target innocent Kashmiris. The leaders who attended the meeting told the home minister that the government should pay attention to Abdullah and Azad.
The home minister assured the leaders that the Centre would take steps to ensure there is no harassment of Kashmiri students, and would take action against those who are found to be involved, irrespective of their party affiliations, Raja told The Sunday Express.
Singh is learnt to have said that nobody would be allowed to vitiate communal harmony in the wake of the attack. Hours after the meeting, the Home Ministry issued an advisory asking all states and Union Territories to ensure safety and security of students and people from Jammu and Kashmir living in their areas.