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'Government to protect minorities'

Government to protect minorities

New Delhi: The government said on Tuesday that it would not tolerate any atrocities against minorities in the country even as it pitched for an anti-conversion law.

Responding to concerns voiced by opposition members over churches being attacked, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha that the government would not tolerate anything that disturbs communal harmony.

"I want to assure, especially minorities that the government will protect them with all its might," he said, discussing demands for grants of his ministry.

The Narendra Modi-led government has been under attack over 'ghar wapsi' (re-conversion) and attacks on churches.

He said the government wanted an anti-conversion law but noted that India is the only country where minorities do not seek such a law.

Rajnath Singh sought to put the blame over the conversion issue on state governments, arguing law and order was a state subject. "States should take strict action. How can the centre intervene," he asked.

"If it happens in Delhi, we will take strict action. I think justice is not being done to the centre if it is blamed for what happened in states," he said.

The home minister said attacks on religious places have been occurring for long and there have also been instances of vandalism and theft at temples.

"In all countries of the world, minorities demand for an anti-conversion law, but in India they don't demand it," he said in his nearly 75-minute reply.

On the Maoist issue, the home minister said there has been a decline in Maoist killings by 22 percent in the affected areas.

"In 2013, 397 people were killed and in 2014, 309 people lost their lives. This is 22 percent less," he said.

The home minister said it was true that the Maoist-affected areas were the most backward. "I want to appeal to all parties that we should tackle the Maoist problem together, so that we can rid the country of this problem."

"We are carrying out development work and have tried to spruce up communication facilities in these areas. We have put up nearly 2,000 towers in these areas," he said.

Rajnath Singh said as far as crimes related to women were concerned, 150 special units have been set up in states to tackle this.

"Women security is an important responsibility of state governments also," he said.

Responding to criticism that the budget allocation for the ministry has been reduced, he said "in fact it has increased".

"No effort is being made to weaken the home ministry. This is a priority of our government that the country, its people and the borders are secure," he added.

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