Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally spoken out against the spate of recent attacks on religious minorities. It’s been a long time coming. In an effort to reach out to the Christian community Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured that his government would not allow any religious group to incite hatred. The Prime Minister, who has been accused by opposition parties, the foreign press and members of the Indian Christian community of turning a blind eye to a string of recent attacks on five churches and a Christian school in Delhi, said his government “gives equal respect to all religions”.
In words that will positively resonate with religious minorities, however, Modi stated that his government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith and that every Indian has the “undeniable right” to adopt or retain their beliefs without undue influence or force. The significance of this statement stems from recent events. It is true that neither BJP nor Sangh Parivar activists have been implicated in the recent spate attacks against churches. These acts, however, have quite clearly emanated from the BJP and the Sangh Parivar’s style of politics over many months. Ever since the present dispensation took office in New Delhi, members of its own party and the Sangh Parivar have targeted Christians and Muslims, accusing both communities of forcibly converting Hindus and indulging in a sinister conspiracy to change the demographics of the nation. Consequently, attempts have been made to vitiate the communal atmosphere before elections, a strategy often used by the party.
In light of these events, allied with the humbling his party received in the recent Delhi assembly elections, the prime minister seems to have acquired the requisite gumption to speak for religious tolerance. In addition, Modi said that his government will strongly act against religious violence of any kind.
Invoking Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said that equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian. It will, however, be safe to suggest that Modi’s remarks have come after US President Barack Obama spoke about growing religious intolerance in India. Although Obama must curtail such events back home before preaching religious tolerance, Modi, nonetheless, must have taken note. Scathing editorials in the international press must have also played a part in evoking a definite response. Though Modi has considered the Indian media to be ‘bazaaru’, he has always cared about what the international media thinks of him.
Through his speech on Tuesday, one hopes, that Modi has acquired the requisite gumption to tackle communal discord that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, his erstwhile ideological mentors, have accentuated in recent times. The RSS has called for converting India into a Hindu state. Modi’s critics, however, have suggested that the fact that he had to clarify the Centre’s role in promoting religious harmony is disappointing. The nation, however, should give our prime minister the benefit of doubt and hope that he proactively acts against acts of communal discord in the future.