Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke at a conference of Governors in New Delhi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday voiced concern over increase in incidents of communalism, violence against women, and intolerance and prejudice in some parts of the country against people who come from other States and pressed for addressing these issues urgently.

Addressing a conference of Governors in New Delhi, he also underlined the “critical” need for greater coordination between the Centre and States as well as between States to defeat terrorism and Left-wing extremism.

Along with terrorism and Naxalism, he highlighted three issues “which are a cause of concern to all of us” -communal disturbances, violence against women, and intolerance. “The first is the increase in incidents of communal disturbance in the past year, especially in some states,” Mr.Singh said, referring to violence in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh a few months back. “All State governments should do their utmost in reversing the situation. It is necessary for the State governments, and also the Central government, to do everything in their power to prevent communal disturbances,” he said.

The Prime Minister said it is essential to ensure that the guilty are punished and responsibility for lapses fixed once communal disturbances occur. In this context, he said Governors should take special interest in promoting communal harmony.

Referring to incidents of violence against women, Mr.Singh said his government has taken several steps to address the issue, including amending the law to provide for speedy justice and enhanced punishment in cases of sexual assault. “However, we, as a society, need to do much more in this area,” he said and urged Governors to press upon the State governments to give enhanced attention to issues relating to women.

Mentioning the murder of a youth from Arunachal Pradesh in Delhi recently, the Prime Minister said the “recurring incidents of intolerance and prejudice in some parts of the country against people who have come from other states to live there” was also a matter of concern. “Recently, our capital city was witness to one such incident in which a student belonging to the Northeastern region lost his life to senseless violence. Such incidents cannot be tolerated in any civilized society and those who are responsible for them should be dealt with firmly,” he said.

He emphasised the need for working collectively towards ensuring that all the citizens, irrespective of where they belong to, feel safe, secure and welcome in all parts of the country. “On the specific issue of the problems being faced by our brothers and sisters from the Northeast, our government has recently constituted a committee which will look into the issue and suggest remedial measures,” Mr.Singh said. On internal security, he said the overall situation in the country showed distinct signs of improvement in 2013, including in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Left Wing Extremism-affected areas. “Our policy of engaging in talks with outfits, which are willing to abjure the path of violence and ready to seek solutions within the framework of our Constitution, has yielded rich dividends in the Northeast,” he said.

He said the two-pronged approach of conducting proactive and sustained operations against Left Wing Extremists and focusing attention on development and governance issues in Left Wing Extremist-hit areas has also shown encouraging results. While listing the steps taken in this regard, he said “we need to persist and intensify these efforts. We also need to ensure greater coordination between the Centre and states as well as between states as this is critical to the success of our efforts.” He also cited steps taken to tackle terrorism and said such violence came down during 2013.

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