Terming the recent communal violence in Orissa and Karnataka as "most disturbing and dangerous," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said those who threaten communal harmony, integrity and peaceful coexistence deserve "very deterrent punishment".
He also said that an atmosphere of "hatred and violence" is being "artificially generated".
"There are forces deliberately encouraging such tendencies and also spawning militant outfits who engage in irrational violence. These need to be firmly dealt with," he said inaugurating the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting in New Delhi.
Noting that perhaps the most disturbing and dangerous aspect today is the assault on country's composite culture, Singh said "today, we see fault-lines developing between, and among, communities."
Holding that there has been considerable debate in the country on ways to handle issues of sectarian and communal violence, he said, "there cannot be two views on the fact that such attempts must be thwarted with the full power of a state that is intent on protecting its democratic foundations.
"Those who threaten our communal harmony, integrity and peaceful coexistence deserve very deterrent punishment," the Prime Minister said.
The day-long meeting is being attended by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers.
"We should not be provoked to suspend or subvert a democratic process in the search for solutions...It has also to be done in a manner that respects the Constitutional bounds of a federal polity," the Prime Minister said.
He said that the responsibility of the political leadership was to preserve and promote the pluralistic and democratic framework.
"We need to collectively consider whether short-term narrow political ends are driving some of us to encourage forces of divisiveness that are today threatening the unity of our people," he said.
Observing that the NIC needed to exert its moral authority on the nation collectively, Singh said "we need to isolate and fight those who promote divisiveness. The common citizen in this country wants peace and harmony in society".
Turning to the issue of terrorism, the Prime Minister said that terrorism and terrorist acts undoubtedly presented a "serious dilemma".
"There can be no compromise with terrorism and terrorists have to be dealt with firmly,"he said adding at the same time it was important that in trying to counter terrorism wrong methods and means were not adopted.
"Any impression that any community, or sections amongst them, are being targeted, or that some kind of profiling is being attempted should be avoided. The means are as important as the ends. This is vital, as otherwise, it could lead to a major polarization in society," he warned.