Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday urged people to challenge communal forces.
"We as a people have an overall secular outlook. It is only a small group of people that is responsible for creating divisions amongst us," he told a National Communal Harmony Awards ceremony here.
"I also believe that it is the duty of each one of us to resist these forces," he said.
The prime minister referred to the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh that left more than 40 people and forced thousands to flee their homes.
"We meet today in the backdrop of heightened communal tensions in some parts of the country. These are very sad developments," Manmohan Singh said.
"Recent events should make us all reflect on our individual and collective obligations to promote goodwill and amity in our society."
The prime minister said India was characterised by great diversity and it was also a country with a "very proud legacy of tolerance".
"India is a land where diverse religions have flourished together for centuries and have enriched each other," he said.
The prime minister said the central government was making every possible effort to ensure communal harmony.
He said a meeting of the National Integration Council has been convened on September 23 "to explore ways and means for achieving these ends".