Modi vows to protect all religious minorities
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday vowed to
protect all religious groups, an apparent response to a series of attacks on Christian
institutions in New Delhi fuelling concerns that minorities are being targeted
by Hindu zealots.
“I condemn all incidents of violence where religious
minorities were targeted,” Modi told an event organised by the Christian
community at the Vigyan Bhavan to celebrate the canonisation of two Keralites –
Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia Eluvathingal – by Pope Francis
late last year.
“No religious group can incite violence ... my government
will ensure there is complete freedom of faith. Everyone has the undeniable
right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or
undue influence,” he added.
“India has tradition of welcoming all religions. Religious
extremism is a global concern. My government will stand by this declaration. The
government is duty bound to preserve the constitution. My government will not
allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite
hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” the prime minister said.
Critics say that Modi’s government, which is led by BJP, has
failed to protect religious minorities and rein in Hindu extremists emboldened
by its election victory last year. Modi rarely attends events organised by
His decision to appear among Christians followed a drubbing
for his party in elections to the Delhi local assembly last week, where it won
just three of 70 seats, raising concerns that it could face setbacks in other
state elections on the horizon.
The poll took place against the backdrop of a clash between
police and priests, nuns and parishioners who were protesting over a series of
vandalism and arson attacks on churches.
Last week, Modi summoned Delhi police commissioner bs Bassi after a sixth attack on a Christian
building, but leaders of the community complained that he needed to do more to
make them feel safe in a country that enshrines secularism despite its Hindu
About a fifth of India's 1.27 billion people identify
themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism. Religious conversions
under the 'Ghar Wapsi' programme by Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) have become a
sensitive issue in recent months after Hindu outfits said Hinduism was under
threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change
Last month, US president Barack Obama pointedly warned during
a trip to India against religious intolerance and said the country's success
depended on its not splintering along religious lines.