Leaders of the country's different minority communities took umbrage on Monday at Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's reference to their 'plight', saying he had no business to do so and they were competent to handle their own problems.
"We have not appointed him our advocate," prominent Muslim politician and All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee convener Syed Shahabuddin told the Press Trust of India. "We are competent to deal with our problems. Any such statements from Pakistani leaders will only prove counter-productive."
Shahabuddin said there was nothing new in Musharraf's statement and his earlier promises were yet to be tested on the ground.
Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, a senior Akali Dal politician, said that by referring to the condition of minorities in India, Musharraf was trying to create divisions within the country.
"We were expecting him to come out with some steps for reconciliation. Instead, he chose to create divisions within India," he remarked.
In his televised address to the Pakistani nation, General Musharraf had urged the world to take note of the "atrocities" being committed by Hindu extremists on Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, the scheduled castes and others in India.
Describing the general's statement as provocative, Tarlochan Singh, vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, said, "The Pakistani president has tried to meddle in our internal affairs. He has misled people in his country and outside about the minorities-majority relations in India. He should first tell them about the state of minorities in Pakistan."
The spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Father Dominic Emmanuel, said the president of another country had no business talking about what was happening to minorities in India. "We are aware of the problems caused by right-wing Hindu extremists," he said, "but Musharraf should first put his own house in order where the minorities do not enjoy equal rights. The blasphemy law, the special votes and the attacks on churches are known to the whole world."
Dilip Singh Bhuria, chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, said Gen Musharraf seemed to be ignorant about political and job reservations available to the scheduled castes in India. "Instead of talking about terrorism, he is trying to cover up his own weakness by referring to the plight of the minorities and scheduled castes in India," Bhuria said.
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