People must challenge communal forces: PM

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 20, 2013 16:05 hrs

New Delhi: Describing the Muzaffarnagar communal violence as "very sad developments", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday urged people to challenge communal forces.

"We as a people have an overall secular outlook. It is only a small group of people that is responsible for creating divisions amongst us," he said at a National Communal Harmony Awards ceremony here.

"I also believe that it is the duty of each one of us to resist these forces," he said.

"We meet today in the backdrop of heightened communal tensions in some parts of the country. These are very sad developments," Manmohan Singh said.

"Recent events should make us all reflect on our individual and collective obligations to promote goodwill and amity in our society."

The prime minister was referring to the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh that left more than 40 people dead and forced thousands to flee their homes.

The prime minister said India was characterised by great diversity and it was also a country with a "very proud legacy of tolerance".

"India is a land where diverse religions have flourished together for centuries and have enriched each other," he said.

The prime minister said the central government was making every possible effort to ensure communal harmony.

He said a meeting of the National Integration Council has been convened Sep 23 "to explore ways and means for achieving these ends".

President Pranab Mukherjee earlier gave away the communal harmony awards for 2011-12 to social activists Khamliana of Mizoram and Mohammad Abdul Bari of Odisha.

The award in the organisation category was given to Delhi-based Foundation for Amity and National Solidarity.

The prime minister said the two individuals who were given the awards have done exemplary work which makes everyone proud.

Manmohan Singh said Khamliana's contribution to strengthening cohesiveness and goodwill in the society (in Mizoram) covers a diverse range of areas - rehabilitation of drug addicts, prevention of AIDS and cultural exchange programmes - to promote national integration and unity.

He said Bari's career was another example of selfless service to the people as he had worked to successfully prevent potential disturbances in his district Bhadrak (Odisha) and to contain them when they had occurred.

The prime minister said Foundation for Amity and National Solidarity has now worked for 28 years for promoting communal harmony and national integration and it has achieved these objectives through a variety of activities and the involvement of youth and students.

Speaking at the function, President Mukherjee lamented that "communalism does not seem to go away from our society".

"Why is it that we do not learn the lessons from our own history but keep repeating the same tragic mistakes?"

The president asserted no Indian institution preaches hatred and no religion preaches discord. "On the contrary, they prescribe that it is the moral duty of every individual and of society as a whole, to spread peace and amity."

The strength and resilience of Indian society lies in its plurality and diversity, he said.

"These principles are at the very foundation of our secular fabric. And, although maintenance of social peace and harmony is a function of government, this responsibility cannot be delinked from the duties of each and every individual citizen."

Vice President M. Hamid Ansari and Home Minister Sushikumar Shinde also talked about communal harmony and tolerance.

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