The National Integration Council (NIC) was constituted in 1961, following a decision taken at a national conference on ‘unity in diversity’, convened by the Central government, at New Delhi. It consisted of the prime minister as chairman, central home minister, chief ministers of states, seven leaders of political parties, the chairman of the UGC, two educationists, the commissioner for SCs and STs and seven other persons nominated by the prime minister. The council was directed to examine the problem of national integration in all its aspects and make necessary recommendations to deal with it. The council made various recommendations for national integration. However, these recommendations remained only on paper and no effort was made either by the Centre or by the states to implement them.
In 1968, the Central government revived the National Integration Council. Its size was increased from 39 to 55 members. The representatives of industry, business and trade unions were also included in it. The council met at Srinagar and adopted a resolution condemning all tendencies that struck at the root of national solidarity. It appealed to the political parties, organisations and the press to mobilise the constructive forces of society in the cause of national unity and solidarity. It also set up three committes to report on regionalism, communalism and linguism respectively. However, nothing tangible was achieved.
In 1980, the Central government again revived the National Integration Council which had become defunct. Its membership was made more broad- based. It had three items on the agenda for discussion viz., the problem of communal harmony, unrest in the north-eastern region and need for a new education system. The council set up a standing committee to keep a constant watch on the activities of communal and other divisive forces posing a threat to the national unity.
In 1986, the NIC was reconstituted and its membership was further increased. It recognised terrorism in Punjab as an attack on the unity, integrity and secular ideals of the country. Accordingly, it passed a resolution to fight terrorism in Punjab. The council also set up a 21-member committee to function on a continuing basis. The committee was asked to formulate both short-term as well as long-term proposals for maintaining communal harmony and preserving national integrity.
In 1990, the National Front Government headed by VP Singh reconstituted the National Integration Council. Its strength was increased to 101. It included prime minister as chairman, some Central ministers, state chief ministers, leaders of national and regional parties, representatives of women, trade and industry, academicians, journalists and public figures. It had various items on the agenda for discussion, viz., Punjab problem, Kashmir problem, violence by secessionists, communal harmony and Ram Janmabhomi-Babri Masjid problem at Ayodhya. But, there was no concrete result.
In 2005, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government reconstituted the National Integration Council under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The 103-member NIC was constituted after a gap of 12 years having held its meeting in 1992. Besides some central ministers, state and UT chief ministers and leaders of national and regional parties, the NIC included chairpersons of National Commissions, eminent publicfigures and representatives from business, media, labour and women. The NIC was to function as a forum for effective initiative and interaction on issues of national concern, review issues relating to national integration and make recommendations.
The 14th meeting of the NIC was held in 2008 in the backdrop of communal violence in various states like Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam and so on. Promotion of education among minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes; elements contributing to national integration; removal of regional imbalances, caste and identity divisions; prevention of extremism; promotion of communal harmony and security among minorities; and equitable development were some of the important items on the agenda of the meeting.
In April 2010, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government again reconstituted the National Integration Council (NIC) under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The NIC has 147 members, including Union Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the Chief Ministers of all states and union territories with Legislatures. It also includes leaders of national and regional political parties, chairpersons of national commissions, eminent journalists, public figures, and representatives of business and women’s organisations. It is chiefly aimed at suggesting means and ways to combat the menace of communalism, casteism and regionalism.
In October 2010, the Government also constituted a Standing Committee of the NIC. It consists of Union Home Minister as Chairman, four Union Ministers, nine Chief Ministers of various states and five co-opted members from NIC. It would finalise the agenda items for NIC meetings.
The 15th meeting of the NIC was held in September, 2011. The agenda for the meeting included measures to curb communalism and communal violence; approach to the Communal Violence Bill; measures to promote communal harmony; measures to eliminate discrimination, especially against minorities and scheduled tribes; how the state and the police should handle civil disturbances; and how to curb radicalisation of youth in the name of religion and caste. The 16th meeting of the NIC was held on 23-09-2013. A Resolution was passed in the meeting to condemn violence, take all measures to strengthen harmonious relationship between all communities, to resolve differences and disputes among the people within the framework of law, to condemn atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, to condemn sexual abuse and to ensure that all women enjoy the fruits of freedom to pursue their social and economic development with equal opportunities, and to safeguard their right of movement in the public space at any time of the day or night.