Speaking at the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting here held after this month's communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh that led to the death of over 50 people, the prime minister said the government should be seen as acting as per law so that people of all religions had faith in it.
"The government should use full force to act against those responsible for riots however powerful they may be and to whichever party they may belong," the prime minister said.
"It is important to ensure that the local administration not only acts swiftly to prevent incidents from taking bigger shape but ensures punishment to the guilty at the earliest," he said.
The prime minister said the meeting had a special significance in light of the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar.
He said over 50 people were killed in communal clashes that broke out in Muzaffarnagar in the last week of August.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction that "we are all agreed about the need to do our very best to promote communal harmony, to prevent atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and in the process, we must do all that we can, to stand by the values inscribed in our constitution".
"It is clear from what has been said today that threats from communal, separatist and obscurantist forces to our nation's integrity, gender relations, harmony and equality for all our citizens must be dealt with firmly and promptly," he said.
He also expressed concern over misuse of social media in inciting communal violence.
"Earlier social media had been misused to trigger violence against people of the northeast. We must find a way to stop misuse of social media," he said.
Chief ministers of several non-Congress ruled states, including Narendra Modi of Gujarat, J. Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, were not present.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of the Congress was also not present.
Telugu Desam Party leader Chandrababu Naidu staged a walkout after being told during his speech that the situation in Andhra Pradesh over a decision to create separate state of Telangana was not on the agenda of the day-long meeting.
Referring to the violence in Muzaffarnagar, the prime minister said: "As far as government officials are concerned, they should have strict instructions that no lapse will be tolerated in cases of communal tensions and in case of riots their responsibility will be fixed."
He said discussion about which political party stands to benefit or lose in elections due to communal violence was "really unfortunate".
"I appeal to political parties and the media that they should not give political colour to a communal incident and not try to reap political benefit from it," he said.
"Our government will take them on strictly," the prime minister said.
The prime minister said there was need to change the mindset to stop crime against women.
"It is a shameful matter that women are not treated properly. I am hopeful this meet will come up with good suggestions to deal with violence against women," the prime minister said.
"A country can only progress if women can move around freely, make independent choices. We must change mindsets to stop crimes against women," he said.
Voicing similar concerns, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said no society could progress without respecting women.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani, several union ministers and NIC members.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav blamed political parties for the Muzaffarnagar violence.
"It looks at present that in view of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, some prominent political parties are making dangerous efforts to mislead the public and spoil communal harmony," Akhilesh Yadav said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad told media persons that "fascist and communal forces want to engineer riots on a big scale" with an eye to the next general elections.
--IANS (Posted on 23-09-2013)