New Delhi: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the country is deeply concerned at the "blatant violation" of right to freedom of thought, belief and speech and termed such incidents as an "assault to nation".
"The assault or murder of thinkers for their disagreement in views cannot be justified on any ground. All right thinking people have condemned such incidents in strongest term. It is an assault to nation," Dr Singh said.
Singh was speaking at the inaugural session of the national conference on "No peace without freedom, No freedom without peace: Securing Nehru's vision and India's future" to celebrate of the 125th birth anniversary of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
"The nation is deeply concerned at the recent tragic incidents of the blatant violation of the right to freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression in our country by some violent extremist groups," Singh said.
Suppression of dissent poses "great danger to economic development of India amid protests over rising intolerance", he added. "There can be no free market without freedom," Singh said.
Dr Singh also gave a piece of advice to the Centre by saying, “A strong central government promoting equality and fulfilling equality is vital for country.”
Reactions from Dr Singh came shortly after Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi targeted opposition parties contending their "political propaganda of threat to tolerance" is an "assault" on the country's soul.
The Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs also reiterated his party BJP's stand that tolerance is "soul of the country" and harmony its "strength".
"Tolerance is 'soul of country and harmony is strength'. Political propaganda of threat to tolerance is attack on the country's soul," Naqvi said on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Union Finance Minister and senior party leader Arun Jaitley had stated India cannot be intolerant, while Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla had dubbed the country as the "most tolerant" nation in the world.
With Agency inputs