‘States need to act fast so that small incidents do not lead to riots’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday expressed concern over misuse of social media for flaring up communal passions. He asked the States to use all means to bring to justice all those who fanned sectarian violence, irrespective of their political affiliations. He saw no need for debate on the political fallout of communal riots, cautioning that it would only threaten India’s integrity.

Speaking at the 16th National Integration Council meeting here, Dr. Singh said: “Social media … gives people freedom to express their opinions and thoughts. But we should not allow people to misuse this medium to create communal tension and spread hatred.” Citing the recent violence in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, he said the States should act fast and transparently so that small incidents did not lead to communal riots.

The Prime Minister not only pointed to the circulation of fake videos that worsened the Muzaffarnagar riots but also recalled last year’s mass exodus of people of the north-east from some southern and western cities due to fake messages on social media.

Cautioning the media and political parties against discussing the political fallout of communal riots, Dr. Singh said: “The debate that which political party will benefit and which will suffer loss from communal violence is very unfortunate. No one benefits from communal enmity … It only endangers the very existence of a civilised nation.”

A majority of Chief Ministers and senior political leaders agreed with Dr. Singh’s concern at misuse of social media and urged the Centre to device a mechanism to deal with this new phenomenon, while some demanded stricter cyberlaws to deal with mischief-mongers.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said there should be some mechanism to deal with the spread of objectionable and sensitive material on the Internet and mobile networks, while Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah favoured development of software to keep a tab on circulation of such content on a real-time basis. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said steps should be taken to prohibit inflammatory communal propaganda.

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