Won’t tolerate violence against any religion, promises Modi

‘Individuals have right to adopt any faith’

Updated - November 26, 2021 10:22 pm IST

Published - February 17, 2015 02:42 pm IST - New Delhi

Fighting back the perception that the Union government is inactive in the face of acts of religious intolerance by Hindutva groups, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Tuesday that every individual had an “undeniable right to retain or adopt” any faith.

“We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext, and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard,” he said.

It was Mr. Modi’s unequivocal and first statement against campaigns that have been disturbing the communal peace in the country. His silence on such actions, some of them by groups associated with the Sangh Parivar, had attracted global criticism, denting his image and that of the government. In the past two months, >five churches and >one Christian-run school have come under attack in the capital alone.

The Prime Minister’s statement won commendation from the audience at the function organised by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia.

“My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” he said.

Mr. Modi said equal respect of all faiths was an integral part of the Constitution, but it had “roots in the ancient cultural traditions” of India. “This principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths has been a part of India’s ethos for thousands of years. And that is how it became integral to the Constitution,” he said.

Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, said: “The government’s alleged plans to bring in new laws [regarding conversion] will create animosity and destroy peace and harmony in the country.”

Catholic body urges PM to implement assurances

Welcoming the statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi against campaigns that disturbed the communal peace, Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, president, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, urged him on Tuesday to ensure that the assurances given to the Christian community were implemented.

“He spoke well. Only a good Hindu can say this,” said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader M.G. Vaidya.

Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry said Christians were peace-loving people, but “this should not, however, be used to trample us.” The Cardinal appealed to the Prime Minister to look into the issue of Dalit Christian rights.

In January, U.S. President Barack Obama’s invocation of the Indian Constitution in the context of religious freedom had created a flutter.

Referring to the increasing religious intolerance across the globe, Mr. Modi said the Indian “tradition of welcoming, respecting and honouring all faiths … is now beginning to manifest in global discourse,” and this showed “that the rest of the world too is evolving along the lines of ancient India.”

Invoking Swami Vivekananda who said “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true,” the Prime Minister said: “What Swami Vivekananda had said a century ago holds good and will, for ever, not only for this nation but also for this government or for that matter any government in India, run by any political party.”

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