Rahul Gandhi today reached out to minority communities saying nobody should ever be scared in a secular India as he held consultations for preparing the Congress manifesto with their leaders that was dominated by Muzaffarnagar riots and exodus of victims.
The meeting was held to elicit the views and demands of minorities at the grassroots level for inclusion in the party's poll document for the Lok Sabha polls.
Today's deliberations were the second as part of the manifesto consultation process, which is being spearheaded by Rahul.
Recalling the fears of a young boy he had met at a relief camp in Shamli near Muzaffarnagar, Rahul said, "No person of any community or caste should ever be scared in India. This is a secular country." The boy had told him that he was afraid to return to his village following the riots, Rahul said.
Rahul also spoke about the need to instill a sense of security among all sections of society.
The riots in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar in September left 62 people dead and rendered 40,000 homeless.
Stating that the key issue was leadership, Rahul said, "Until we open up processes, until we encourage leadership, problems will not be solved. The problem at all levels is of developing leadership."
The meet also saw some plain speaking by the participants who told the Congress Vice-President that issues concerning the minority community should be decided by talking to representatives on the ground and not just to some Muslim leaders at the top, sources said.
The participants at the meet emphasised the need to see to it that "around one lakh Muslims living in relief camps" in Muzaffarnagar are sent back to their homes.
Responding to the demand for reservation, Rahul said that while such a move could be a solution, it alone would not be enough to raise the economic and social status of the minority community.
At the meet, while members from Jain community, too, demanded minority status for themselves, Christian members raised the issue of Kandhmal riots. Further, some members from the Jain and Sikh communities made allegations of persecution in Narendra Modi-led Gujarat.
Later, at a press conference, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said issues of security, peace, education and job opportunities dominated the meeting.
On the issue of reservation for Dalit Christians and 4.5 per cent quota for backward minorities in OBC categories, the meeting saw pleas urging that courts be requested to expedite decisions in such matters.