He said statistics on the communal violence show an increasing trend in the last two years and minor incidents tend to get escalated into major incidents of violence leading to displacement of affected communities.

PM expresses concern over increasing communal violence

"The frequency of incidents, especially in the last few months, seems to suggest that there is a sinister motive behind them. It is noticed that the communal forces seem to have got emboldened and are trying to polarize the society," he said addressing the meeting of the National Integration Council (NIC).

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was convened in the backdrop of riots in Muzaffarnagar that claimed 48 lives. Union ministers, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Chief Ministers and Lieutenant Governors of Union Territories are members of NIC. Leaders of national and regional political parties, chairpersons of national commissions, eminent journalists, public figures and representatives of business and women's organizations are also part of the 148-member NIC.

The Home Minister said that only a small group of people was responsible for creating divisions in the society and it was the duty of all concerned to resist these forces. Shinde said the country was proud of its legacy of tolerance and respect for each other and it is a nation of diverse cultures, languages and religions.

"Ours is the land where diverse religions have flourished together and the people have lives harmoniously. In spite of this diversity, the invisible but all pervasive thread of being 'Indian' keep us united," he said.

The Home Minister said that it was the duty of everyone to keep this 'torch of unity' shining bright under all circumstances as the tradition of communal harmony, tolerance and mutual respect has always been the distinguishing features of the country's civilization and polity.

"This tradition continues even today. Indeed, democracy can prosper and flourish only with strict adherence to secularism," he said.

On safety and security of women, an issue which is part of the agenda of the day-long meeting, Shinde said that women not only constitute fifty per cent of country's population and have an equal role to play in the development of this country, but they also remain the main foundation of an egalitarian and dignified society.

"No country can progress unless they treat their women with respect. Unfortunately, we continue to read about heinous crimes committed on our women. The statistics on crimes against women reveal an increasing trend in the last three years," he said.

Shinde said that the brutal rape and attack on a young girl in Delhi last year shocked the conscience of the nation and the government of India took a major initiative to amend the criminal law to make the punishment for such offences more stringent.

"The judiciary also took steps to fast track the prosecution of the criminals and the judgement in the matter was pronounced recently. We hope that this example will serve as a deterrent," he said.

(Agencies)

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