New Delhi, Sep 23: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday stressed on the responsibility of states to deal promptly and strictly with sectarian violence and the need to check social media’s misuse to foment trouble.
Addressing the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting here in the aftermath of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, that claimed 50 lives, the prime minister said one should not try and politicise communal riots but act against those inciting communal violence, no matter how powerful they are.
“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,” he said.
The NIC later passed a resolution to that effect.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government would soon bring in an anti-communal violence bill.
The NIC meeting saw several chief ministers raise concerns over misuse of social media to spread hatred and rumours.
The meeting was marked by a walkout by Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu in protest against the move to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.
A number of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states’ chief ministers, including the party’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, did not attend the meeting.
“Modi should have come,” said Shinde.
The others from the BJP who did not attend the meeting were Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who attacked her Uttar Pradesh counterpart Akhilesh Yadav over the Muzaffarnagar violence, also did not attend the meeting. Her speech was read out by a state minister. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik of Odisha were also not present.
Referring to the fake video that was allegedly used to fan the Muzaffarnagar riots, the prime minister said: “We must find a way to stop misuse of social media.”
“We cannot let anti-national forces misuse social media. Social media is about expressing opinions freely and we need to maintain that sense of freedom.”
He said that last year the social media was used to cause panic by threatening violence against people of the northeast.
Shinde said: “We are eager to ban social media but it is not easy.”
The prime minister appealed to the political parties not to politicise the issue of riots.
“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.
He added that anti-national forces were using minor incidents for communal disharmony. “We are determined to control these forces. States need to take prompt action to control small incidents that could flare up.”
The prime minister also raised the issue of rising crimes against women and said that changing the laws was not sufficient. Social change is the need of the hour.
“A nation can progress only when women can go to public places without fear. It is a shame that women are not treated properly.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Maharashtra’s Prithviraj Chavan, Assam’s Tarun Gogoi, Haryana’s Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Meghalaya’s Mukul Sangma were among those who raised concerns over misuse of social media.
Shinde said no society could progress without respecting women.
The meeting also saw senior BJP leader L.K. Advani and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar greet each other cordially. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since the Janata Dal-United broke off from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
The meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and several union ministers and NIC members.
Akhilesh Yadav alleged that some political parties were behind the Muzaffarnagar violence.
“It looks 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,” Yadav said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad told mediapersons that “fascist and communal forces want to engineer riots on a big scale” with an eye to the general elections.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that NIC meetings should be held every year. The last NIC meeting was held in 2011.