Expressing deep anguish at the developments in Assam and its aftermath in some parts of the country, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Sunday asked the Central and State governments to act with an iron hand against those vitiating communal harmony.

Speaking at the 20th Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award here, Ms. Gandhi said the challenges before the country were that of unity and harmony and the developments in Assam were a matter of deep sorrow and anxiety. She called for expeditious action against the guilty irrespective of their social standing.

Similarly all should condemn the kind of treatment that was meted out to the people of the north-east in some parts of the country.

‘Service to mankind’

Emphasising that the country belongs to all its citizens, Ms. Gandhi said all had the freedom to reside wherever they wished to. Social unity was of prime requisite for maintaining such an environment, she said, and doing so was an act of service to mankind.

Stating that enemies of social communal harmony posed the biggest challenge to the country since Independence, she said those who fought them were the true patriots.

Award conferred on D.R. Mehta

Conferring the award on founder and chief patron of the Bhagwan Mahavir Vikalang Sahayata Samiti, Jaipur, D.R. Mehta, Ms. Gandhi said Rajiv Gandhi relentlessly fought against social and communal tensions and hatred, and treading that path he sacrificed his life.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Rajiv Gandhi played a major role in India’s growth story, always striving for unity among countrymen, peace, tolerance and harmony without which development was not possible.

He recalled Rajiv Gandhi’s new initiatives for environment protection and the country’s unity and said these would continue to inspire the country and people for a better future.

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