New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Monday asked all chief ministers to ensure that no innocent Muslim is arrested in the name of fighting terror, as the BJP termed this against secularism and demanded he be "sacked".
But the ruling Congress maintained Shinde's letter was not an appeasement of the minority community.
In a letter to chief ministers, the home minister said strict and prompt action should be taken against erring police officers when malafide arrests are made of any member of a minority community.
"Some of the minority youth have started feeling that they are deliberately targeted and deprived their basis rights," he wrote in his letter that was made public.
"Government has to ensure that no innocent person is subjected to undue harassment," he said.
The home minister said a person wrongfully arrested should be released immediately and suitably compensated and rehabilitated to join the mainstream.
Shinde said the central government has been receiving representations about alleged harassment of innocent Muslim youth.
He called upon the state governments to constitute special courts for trial of terror-related cases and give priority to terror cases over other pending cases.
The home minister said law enforcement agencies should be satisfied about communal and social harmony while ensuring zero tolerance for terrorism.
Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan is among the Congress leaders who expressed concern over wrongful arrests of Muslim youths in terror cases.
But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the order should be "withdrawn" as it against secularism.
BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu demanded that Shinde should immediately withdraw the order and apologise to the nation. "It is against democracy and against secularism," he said.
BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Shinde should be "sacked".
"The home minister has given direction to chief ministers not to harass any innocent Muslim youth. We believe if he had not referred to a community and said innocent Indian of any religion should not be harassed, it would have been better," Rudy said.
"We believe ministers who use such expressions should be dismissed for partiality and dividing the nation. So, we demand sacking of the home minister," he said.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi, however, denied there was any move at appeasement.
"If the home minister has issued such a direction, I appreciate it. It is not an appeasement at all," said Alvi.
Shinde's move comes in the backdrop of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) accepting that there was no evidence against nine Muslim men who spent five years in jail after they were accused of bomb blasts in Malegaon in Maharashtra in which nearly 40 people were killed in 2006.
Communist Party of India's D. Raja said they welcome the concern but the timing has to
"This should have come long back, not just before election season," said Raja, adding "minorities cannot be wooed by the Congress party in this manner."
Raja pointed out that "there is empirical data which shows large number of young Muslims are put in prison without trial or charge-sheet for years together."
The minority affairs minister had earlier written to Shinde expressing concern over "wrong arrests" of Muslim youngsters in different parts of the country in terror cases.
He had apprised the home ministry of the concerns expressed by various Muslim bodies that laws can be misused against minorities and urged that courts be set up to ensure speedy trial of all terror cases.