Communal forces a major threat: PM

FrontP Chidambaram, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Sushil Kumar Shinde at the meet, in New Delhi Monday.

Forces trying to incite communal violence are a major challenge facing India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday.

Addressing the National Integration Council, the prime minister urged political parties to refrain from milking communal situations. He, however, made no mention of the communal violence Bill, which is hanging fire since 2005.

In recent times, Singh said, communal clashes have occurred in J&K's Kishtwar, Bihar's Nawada, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad. "At times, anti-national forces succeed in creating a communal divide between various sections of people. Such forces are a big challenge to the democracy of this country," he said.

He termed as "unfortunate" the debate about which party would benefit electorally from communalism.

"Nobody benefits from communal discord. Such things put a question mark on the very existence of a civilised nation like ours," he said. "I appeal parties and media to refrain from giving any political colour to or taking political mileage from such incidents."

He emphasised that the onus of preventing communal riots lay with states and they should take effective steps to ensure small issues don't snowball into violence.

Referring to the riots in UP's Muzaffarnagar, he said, "The state should use all means at its disposal to punish those guilty of fanning communal violence and ensure a speedy crackdown on such elements, irrespective of their political affiliations or influence."

He said state governments should make it clear to officials that "they are answerable in case of any communal tension or violence" and that "carelessness will not be tolerated".

He stressed the need to prevent the social media from being used to fan communal hatred.

The prime minister also expressed concern over atrocities against the poor, SCs, STs, lower castes and backward classes. "It is unfortunate that even after 60 years after independence, crimes against these sections are troubling us and are rising."

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