New Delhi: The number of communal incidents in the country have declined "substantially" since the NDA government has come to power, the government said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Responding to a series of supplementaries on communal incidents in various parts of the country, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said between 2013 and October this year, the number of communal incidents reported have come down "substantially."
As opposition members questioned his remark, the minister said so far this year four major communal incidents have taken place. "In fact, the incidents have gone down and not come up since our party has come to power," he said during Question Hour.
Amid heated exchanges between the opposition and treasury benches, he said while there has been some rise in incidents between 2014 and 2015, but compared to 2013, they have come down.
He said he was comparing the number of incidents since 2013 as NDA was not in power for the entire of 2014 but only part of it. He also said he would not like to comment on the communal incidents which took place during the UPA rule.
In the written reply, government has explained that 'major events' are classified as those where over five persons have been killed or 10 injured or which lead to multiplicity of fatalities and extensive destruction of property.
'Important events' are classified where at least one person has been killed or at least 10 persons are injured.
According to the written reply, in 2014, 644 'communal incidents' took place, including 133 in UP, 72 in Rajasthan, 97 in Maharashtra, 56 in Madhya Pradesh, 73 in Karnataka, 10 in Jharkhand, 74 in Gujarat, 7 in Delhi, 61 in Bihar and 16 in West Bengal.
This year, between January and October, 650 incidents have taken place with a maximum of 139 taking place in Uttar Pradesh.
While 97 incidents were reported from Maharashtra, 86 from Madhya Pradesh, 79 from Karnataka, 24 from Jharkhand, 47 from Gujarat, 59 from Bihar and 24 from West Bengal.
Rijiju rejected suggestions by Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge that there have been more communal clashes in states where BJP has "more presence" such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Bihar.
"It is not a fair comment. What Kharge says does not tally with the figures. It is the responsibility of state government or MPs," the minister asked. Saugata Roy (TMC) wanted to know whether there are
plans to "control" remarks of ruling party members which fuel communal differences.
Observing that he does not agree with Roy's statement, Rijiju shot back saying, "an artificial atmosphere of intolerance is being created in the country."
Responding to a supplementary by Sushmita Dev (Cong) on whether the government will come up with a fresh definition of communal riots based on the statement of Home Minister Rajnath Singh that secularism actually means 'panth nirpeksh' and not 'dharma nirpeksh', he said as of now there is "no proposal" to change the definition.
He also said government has no plans to set up a committee to investigate communal riots which have taken place in the last five years and identify the culprits.
Rijiju said the responsibility of maintaining law and order rests with the state governments and the Centre assists them in a variety of ways such as sharing of intelligence, sending alerts, advisories and deploying central forces after consulting them.
Responding to a question on 'major'/'important' communal incidents in the last two years, Rijiju said one incident each was reported from Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Haryana in 2014.
Till October this year, an incident each was reported from Haryana and UP in May and October respectively.