In this file photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures during a conference. (File)
Breaking Silence: Modi Has Done Well To Uphold Religious Freedom and the Right to Choose
February 18, 2015
Breaking his silence on growing incidents of religious intolerance since the NDA government came to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asserted his government’s determination to protect freedom of religion and the citizen’s right to choose in this regard. Anything else would be antithetical to the vision of modernity and unleashing of aspiration that he has otherwise articulated for 21st century India. The occasion on which he chose to do so is also significant — while attending a church event to mark the sainthoods of Kuriakose Chavara and Euphrasia from Kerala.
Union minister Arun Jaitley has also reinforced the message by describing the recent spate of church attacks in the capital as unacceptable aberrations. Modi emphasised that the government would not allow any religious group, either in majority or minority, to incite hatred overtly or covertly. This is what the government needs to stick to in practice. Development and communal polarisation cannot go hand in hand. Modi’s slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ can only be realised if communal harmony prevails and the government is seen to be upholding the law.
Hitherto, there might have been an understanding among BJP top brass that allowing fringe elements to project a hardline Hindutva image would reap electoral dividends. Modi could speak development while the likes of Sakshi Maharaj or Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti could bolster the Hindutva plank. However, today’s electorate is smart and sees through such ploys. If there is a lesson that BJP must learn from its crushing Delhi poll defeat, the extremist fringe within the party and allied organisations has to be reined in. In any case, RSS feels free to criticise BJP. Through its mouthpiece Panchjanya, RSS has roasted BJP top brass for the Delhi poll defeat. There is no reason for BJP to be overly beholden to RSS, especially when the latter is holding up the NDA government’s legislative agenda by providing a reason for opposition parties to unite.
Modi may have quietly marginalised his party’s extremist wing in Gujarat after the 2002 riots. But the slow asphyxiation approach won’t work at the Centre. He has done well to speak out publicly against religious intolerance. He must also openly counter BJP’s ostensible well-wishers who undermine his development agenda. Only by walking the talk on inclusive development and sidelining the extremist fringe can the NDA government repay the faith that people have reposed in it.
PM Modi: Govt Will Not Allow Any Group to Incite Hatred
TNN | Feb 17, 2015
NEW DELHI: In an all out effort to reach out to the Christians and other minority communities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured that his government won't allow any group to incite hatred. "My government will not allow any religious group belonging to the majority or minority to incite hatred against any group," Modi said while speaking at a celebration function of Elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia in New Delhi.
"We believe religion is personal choice of every citizen," Modi stressed, adding fanaticism will not be tolerated.
The Prime Minister, who has been accused by opposition and Christian groups 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". "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, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions," he said at a function here.
In a stern warning to fringe elements, he said, "We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard."
"World is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines, this has become a matter of global concern. In this context the ancient Indian play of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest in global discourses," said the Prime Minister.
Observing that the world is at crossroads, he said if not crossed properly it "can throw us back to the dark days of bigotry, fanaticism and bloodshed".
He further said that this harmonious convergence among religions could not be achieved even when the world entered the third millennium.
Invoking Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said that equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian. Seeking harmony, the Prime Minister appealed to all religious groups to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of the ancient nation which is manifest in the Constitution and in line with the Hague Declaration.
Modi's remarks have come after US President Barack Obama said the "acts of intolerance" experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.
Here are some highlights of what he said:
1. The lives of Saint Chavara and Euphrasia are an inspiration not only to Christian community but to humanity as a whole
2.Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara & Saint Euphrasia, the whole country is proud of their recognition
3. Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara's contribution towards women empowerment was also noteworthy. Saint Euphrasia dedicated her life to prayer and devotion to God
4. Mother India gave birth to many religious and spiritual streams
5. The tradition of welcoming, respecting and honouring all faiths is as old as India itself
6. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum, it has roots in ancient cultural traditions of India
7. Principle of equal respect has been part of India's ethos for thousands of years and that's how it became integral to Constitution of India
8. World is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines, this has become a matter of global concern
9. In this context the ancient Indian play of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest in global discourses
10. My govt will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and everyone has undeniable right to retain religion of his/her choice
11. Our government will not allow any religious group belonging to majority or minority to incite violence overtly or covertly
12. India is a land of Buddha and Gandhi, equal respect for all religion should be in the DNA of every citizen
13. Appeal to all religious groups to act with mutual respect and tolerance
14. I strongly condemn such violence, my govt will act strongly in this regard
15. With this commitment I appeal all religious groups to act with mutual respect and tolerance in true spirit of this ancient nation
Muslim Clerics Pose Six Questions to RSS
February 18, 2015
The clerics claim that Indresh Kumar, the RSS’ minority affairs in-charge, asked them to call for a conference, where he will discuss issues, including Hindu rashtra, raised by them.
A delegation of Muslim clerics led by the Sunni Ulema Council general secretary Haji Mohammed Salees met RSS functionary Indresh Kumar and posed six questions to the Sangh including whether it has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu rashtra (nation).
Mr. Kumar is margdarshak (guide) of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, a platform for Muslims formed in 2002 at the initiative of then RSS sarsangchalak K.S. Sudarshan.
The Muslim delegation claimed that Mr. Kumar refused to answer their questions and instead said that a conference of Muslim organisations should be called where he would give the answers.
“We had a meeting with senior RSS functionary Indreshji last night during which we asked six questions, but he did not have any answer,” Mr. Salees told PTI on Tuesday.
He alleged that Mr. Kumar got “irritated” with the questions.
Questions that Muslim clerics posed to RSS
Does RSS consider India a Hindu country?
Has RSS prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu rashtra?
Will the Hindu rashtra be according to Hindu religious texts or has RSS chalked out a new philosophy?
What does the RSS want on religious conversion?
What type of rashtra prem (patriotism) RSS wants from Muslims?
How does RSS view Islam?
“Our first question was whether RSS considers India a Hindu country. The second one was whether RSS has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu rashtra. The third one was whether this Hindu rashtra will be according to Hindu religious texts or RSS has chalked out a new philosophy,” he said.
Mr. Salees said, “The fourth question was what they want on religious conversion. The fifth one was what type of rashtra prem (patriotism) RSS wants from Muslims. The sixth one was how RSS views Islam,” he said.
He said that these were the six questions which Mr. Kumar “failed” to answer.
“They (RSS) did not have any format. They are shouting about Hindu rashtra only on the basis of propaganda,” he alleged.
Mr. Salees expressed fear that if Hindu rashtra was built on Hindu texts, Dalits could once again not be allowed to enter temples.
“We asked whether a new philosophy has been chalked out by RSS. If a new philosophy has been chalked out that means Hindu religion is not religious culture. In that case, anyone can convert,” he said.
Mr. Salees said when the Constitution provides freedom of religion, why is the RSS afraid of bringing a bill.
“We are not afraid. If any Muslim does not like Islam and wants to leave, he can go. We don’t have any law to keep any Muslim by compulsion,” he said.
Mr. Salees said as far as love for the country was concerned their ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan.
“In 1947, when the concept of two countries was decided, our ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan and accepted Gandhiji as our leader, India as our country and expressed faith in the Constitution,” he said.
“What do they want from the Muslims? They should sing Vande Matram and bow before the picture of Bharat Mata, which they have visualised? We won’t accept it. It is against Islam,” he said.
“The ultimate result of the 90-minute meeting was they (the RSS) asked us to call a sammelan (conference) of Muslims and they will reply (to our posers),” Mr. Salees said.
“I said that when you cannot answer these questions in a room, then how will you do so in a conference. We then asked as to why should we call a conference,” he said.
Mr. Salees said there was restlessness among Muslims over these issues and “I came to take reply to these questions being raised in our community.”
“I believe whatever be our religion, we should be honest towards the Constitution. Religion is our personal thing. It is not an issue of the nation. We don’t even support the statements of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi.
“Those flaring communal passion are not loyal to the country. The country will run on the principles of Gandhiji, it will not run on the statements of Owaisi or Sangh,” he added.
Meanwhile, a city cleric, who skipped a meeting between Mr. Kumar and the delegation of Muslim leaders on Monday night, said there “was no point” in meeting a representative and that he would only meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to highlight issues pertaining to their community.
“Salees had called me for the meeting but I have already met Indresh before and there was no point in meeting him again. I will respond to the request of a meeting only if Bhagwat will call us,” city cleric Alam Raja Noori told PTI.
“If we had met Bhagwat, we would have put forth our issues with their agenda of a Hindu nation. Talking with Indresh about our concerns will not affect organisation’s perspective,” he said.
The cleric further said he was out of town when the meeting took place but even if he were here he wouldn’t have met Mr. Kumar.
Meanwhile, Mr. Salees said Mr. Noori’s name was not included in the list of members who were to meet the RSS functionary and was only added later.
Elaborating on the meeting, Mr. Salees said, on being questioned by Mr. Kumar on their alleged silence over remarks by Mr. Owaisi, the delegation told him that Mr. Owaisi does not represent the views of the community.
Equating him with the likes of BJP MPs Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti, Mr. Salees said, “Owaisi is just a Member of Parliament”.
Namo’s Remarks a Pleasant Surprise, Christian Leaders Say
TNN | Feb 18, 2015
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unequivocal commitment to the right of every religion to practice and propagate itself came at the end of a long meeting during which leading Christian leaders repeatedly voiced concerns about ghar vapasi and attack on churches.
Modi's comments surprised many, who had been disappointed about the new government not coming out with a clear stand on the controversies. In a clear sign of unhappiness with Modi's silence, the Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai had recently told TOI that delegations from the church that visited the prime minister over such matters did not return reassured that things would get better. One senior catholic priest said Tuesday's Modi speech was a "pleasant surprise."
Head of Faridabad diocese of Syro-Malabar Catholics, Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara said despite India being a cradle of many religions, there are concerns about the growing intolerance towards minorities.
Archbishop of Thrissur Mar Andrews Thazhath said India accepted Christianity 2000 years ago, and pointed out that when the Indian population grew from 1 billion to 1.2 billion, the number of Christians remained the same. "Not only that it did not convert but rather it lost its members," he said, refuting allegations of large-scale conversions.
He said Christians are peace loving and peace caring, and said they have been providing selfless service through education and medical care. He said about 70% of students in catholic schools are poor and deprived. "I can categorically state that our educational institutions are run not for conversions, but for nation building," Thazhath said. The archbishop mentioned names of top BJP leaders such as L K Advani and Smriti Irani among those who have attended catholic schools.
"We are sure the government will protect the rights of all religions and particularly of the minority communities," he said. Raising concern that the recent incidents of continued attack on churches and schools, Archbishop Thazhath said people are now living in "fear and anxiety." He appealed to the government to take steps that would make all from minority communities "safe and secure."
Deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien said the country has a history of tolerance towards minorities, even when there was no Constitution. He added some of the recent incidents of anti-minority attacks are only "aberrations."
Kurien pointed out, "PM's presence itself is reassuring" and that Modi's presence shows his "commitment to plurality."
Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto pointed out that more than 60% of Christian institutions in education and health sector are in rural areas. He appealed to the government to ensure fundamental rights of every citizen are protected.
Archbishop Couto appealed to the Prime Minister to look into the demands of dalit Christians for reservations like dalits of other religions.
Major Archbishop George Alencherry, the seniormost among the spiritual leaders of Syro-Malabar church, said the allegation that Christianity is a foreign religion is not true. "We are very much citizens of this country." He rejected allegations of churches converting people. "Conversion is a question of one's personal conviction and cannot be done by alluring or force," he said. Alencherry pointed out that any new anti-conversion law will add animosity between religions.
Stating that Christians believe in peace and they are never vindictive, he added "this should not be seen as their weakness."
Modi’s Sermon on Tolerance Aimed at Christians, VHP Says
Deeptiman Tiwary,TNN | Feb 18, 2015
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remark on religious tolerance is widely being seen as an assurance to the minorities in general and government's outreach to Christians in particular in the wake of recent attacks on churches. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), however, said the media is reading the message wrong and the sermon of religious tolerance is actually aimed at "Christians who have been attacking Hindus".
It said the very fact that Modi chose to address a gathering of Christians on a day the Delhi Police brought out a report saying that 206 temples had been attacked as against seven Churches proved that the PM was asking Christians to exercise religious tolerance and "respect the Hindu religion".
VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, "The Prime Minister did not say 'minorities' nor did he mention any particular religion. The news traders are misreading his message to suit their agenda. When he has not taken any names, you have to see in what circumstances he has made the statements. The supposed attacks on churches have been going on for a while now but the PM never came out and spoke. He spoke only after the Delhi Police pointed out that 206 temples were attacked. He spoke on a day a temple was vandalized in the US."
Jain denied that Modi's message was in any way an assurance to the minorities that their interests would be protected. He also said since it was not directed towards Hindu groups, VHP's programmes of 'ghar wapasi' and protests against 'love jihad' would continue.
"The PM's message was aimed at those who attack other religions. It's the Christian missionaries which publish literature insulting Hindu deities, run hate campaigns and insult Hinduism in general. This way they insult the nation. That is why Modi did not say these things addressing a congregation of Hindus. This means he has indicated to the Christian community that you should start respecting the Hindu religion," Jain said.
Addressing the national celebration function marking the elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi on Tuesday said, "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, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions."
In what was seen as a stern warning to fringe elements, he said, "We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard."
Finally, Modi Breaks Silence, Says Won’t Allow Religious Intolerance
TNN | Feb 18, 2015
NEW DELHI: Breaking his silence over the rising incidence of attacks on churches and aggressive religious conversions, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that his government will ensure complete freedom of faith.
Narendra Modi asserted that everyone had the right to retain or adopt the religion of his choice without coercion. He also warned that his government would not allow any religious group, of majority or minority communities, to incite hatred against other.
"Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions," Modi said.
The PM's comments come not just in the wake of hate speeches by fringe Sangh elements, but also after repeated concerns raised by US president Barack Obama about growing religious intolerance in India. In a strong warning to the fringe elements, Modi said, "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 appealed to all religious groups "to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution".
Addressing a meeting organized by the Syro-Malabar Catholic church to celebrate Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphresia being declared saints by the Vatican, the PM's comments would put to rest any speculation about any changes in conversion laws or in India's constitutional commitment to secularism.
The PM's silence on the rising anxiety had led many observers to warn that Modi's development agenda could be washed away by such controversies.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was also there for the meeting, said that the recent attacks on churches were "unacceptable aberrations", and that the culprits would be punished. In one case, the guilty had been identified and brought to book, and in all other cases strong action would be taken. Mischief makers will have no place in our country, he said.
'Respect for faiths in our DNA'
The PM recalled the words of Swami Vivekanand — "We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true." The principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths, Modi said, has been part of the Indian ethos for thousands of years, adding: "And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India."
Modi pointed out that India was the land of Buddha and Gandhi and "equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian".
The PM said he had a vision for a modern India, and its mantra was development. "In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud," he said.
The PM referred to the declaration adopted at the interfaith conference held on December 10, 2008 at The Hague to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN. "We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen," he quoted from the declaration.
‘My Government Will Not Allow Any Religious Group Majority or Minority to Incite Hatred against Others’
February 18, 2015
Spiritualism is rooted in India’s heritage. Indian saints and Greek sages had intellectual and spiritual exchanges thousands of years back. India’s openness to new ideas is manifest in the Rig Veda: “Aano bhadraha kratvo yantu vishvataha (Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides)”. This philosophy has guided our intellectual discourse since time immemorial. Mother India gave birth to many religious and spiritual streams. Some of them have even travelled beyond India’s borders.
The tradition of welcoming, respecting and honouring all faiths is as old as India itself. As Swami Vivekananda said: “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true”. What Swami Vivekananda had said a century ago holds good and will forever, not only for this nation but also for this government or, for that matter, any government in India run by any political party. 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 of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had inspired us to dream of a land where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. It is that heaven of freedom we are duty bound to create and preserve. We believe that there is truth in every religion — ekam sat vipr bahudha vadanti.
Let me now come to the issue which is central and critical to peace and harmony in the contemporary world. The world is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines. This has become a matter of global concern. In this context, the ancient Indian plea of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest itself in the global discourse.
This long-felt need and urge for mutually respectful relations led to the interfaith conference on “faith in human rights” at the Hague on December 10, 2008. This was coincidentally also the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
Religious leaders representing every major world religion — Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, the Baha’i Faith, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and indigenous religions — met, discussed and pledged to uphold the Universal Declaration and freedom of religion or belief. In their historic declaration, they defined what constitutes freedom of faith and how it is to be safeguarded.
We consider the freedom to have, to retain and to adopt a religion or belief to be a personal choice of a citizen. The world is at a cross roads, which, if not crossed properly, can throw us back to the dark days of bigotry, fanaticism and bloodshed. This harmonious convergence among religions could not be achieved even when the world entered the third millennium. And now it has been. This shows that the rest of the world too is evolving along the lines of ancient India.
Speaking for India and for my government, I declare that my government stands by every word of the above declaration. 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, belonging to either the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.
India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. Equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian. We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.
With this commitment, I appeal to all religious groups to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance, in the true spirit of this ancient nation, which is manifest in our Constitution and is in line with the Hague Declaration.
I have a vision of a modern India. I have embarked on a huge mission to convert that vision into reality. My mantra is development — sabka saath, sabka vikas.
In simple terms, it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with a toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud. We can achieve this through unity. Unity strengthens us. Division weakens us. I sincerely request all Indians and all of you present here to support me in this huge task.
Let the elevation to sainthood of Saint Chavara and Saint Euphrasia, and their noble deeds, inspire us to maximise our inner strength, to use that strength for transforming society through selfless service, to fulfil our collective vision of a developed and modern India.
It’s Better Late than Never, Congress Says
TNN | Feb 18, 2015
NEW DELHI: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming out unequivocally for the first time against recent attacks on churches and controversial statements by right-wing fringe elements, Congress on Tuesday said it was "better late than never".
The party also suggested that the proof of the pudding lies in stopping the "vitriolic agenda" of RSS and its fringe elements.
"(It's) better late than never is what we will say to the PM for breaking his deafening silence. We hope Modi will show the courage of (his) convictions by taking on the RSS and its fringe elements and put a stop to their vitriolic agenda," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
The response came after PM's remarks that the government will not allow any religious group to incite hatred and act strongly against any religious violence.
The opposition has been slamming Modi for his silence over fringe elements peddling the Hindutva agenda and acts of vandalism on churches in the national capital.
‘Hindus Lured and Forced To Convert’
TNN | Feb 18, 2015
GORAKHPUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Pravin Togadia on Tuesday claimed the Mughals and Christians converted Hindus to Islam and Christianity "by force and allurements''.
"Ancestors of Indian Muslims and Christians were Hindus and Mughal emperors converted Hindus to Islam on the tip of sword. After Mughals, Christians converted Hindus with the force of money,'' he said at a presser here.
He defended recent conversions to Hinduism. "Those who speak against 'ghar vapsi' and religious conversion should first turn the pages of history. The Hindus should be careful otherwise one day they will become minorities in their own county.''
Togadia slammed the government control over temples. "There are many temples in the country which are controlled by the government but none of the mosque is controlled by it.'' He spoke against the Haj subsidy.
Samajwadi Party district media in-charge Kalishankar assailed Togadia for spreading hatred.
"Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he will not allow anyone to spread hatred in the name of religion and religious tolerance should be the DNA of all Indians. But in contrast Togadia is spreading hatred in the name of religion," he said.
"Will Modi take action against him and other leaders like him, including Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj who do not miss a chance to play divisive politics?"
Modi’s Statement Evokes Mixed Reaction
Feb 18, 2015
Minority groups and political opponents welcomed on Tuesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi breaking his silence on the recurring incidents of communal tensions in the country, but some doubted if this would rein in groups running divisive campaigns.
The Congress said it was better late than never. “We hope Mr. Modi will show courage of conviction by taking on the RSS and its fringe elements and put a stop to their vitriolic agenda,” said spokesman Randeep Surjewala even as others in the party wondered if Mr. Modi had learnt a lesson from the electoral drubbing in Delhi.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury described the Prime Minister’s speech as classic proof of the English adage “hear what I say; not what I do,” drawing attention to the fact that the RSS and the VHP were continuing with their agenda.
Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja said the reaction should come from the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. “If the PM has said it in all sincerity, then he should directly address the RSS and the VHP and take action against those who have attacked the very foundations of our Constitution.”
Pointing out that the Prime Minister had given similar assurances in his first speech in Parliament, K.C. Tyagi, Rajya Sabha member and Janata Dal (U) leader, said there was a lot of difference between what the BJP said and did. “We will believe Mr. Modi when the leaders of the RSS’s frontal organisations stop making inflammatory speeches.”
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described the attacks on Christian institutions as “aberrations.” Reflecting the change in the atmospherics triggered by the Prime Minister’s speech which addressed all minorities, Zakat Foundation of India president Syed Zafar Mahmood said: “When the PM speaks so loudly, clearly and emphatically, I am sure it will have a salutary effect and such aberrations will come to an end.”
Surprised by the manner in which Mr. Modi addressed all the apprehensions of the community, Catholic Bishops Conference of India spokesman Joseph Chinnayan said: “We did not expect such a strong statement. His assurance that everyone had the right to adopt any religion is reassuring. We hope these words translate into action.”
Echoing similar sentiments, the spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, Dominic Emmanuel, wondered why Mr. Modi had not been forthcoming earlier. “Can he rein in those who have been vitiating the atmosphere? They are not just fringe elements. Even party members and Ministers like Venkaiah Naidu spoke out on anti-conversion law in Parliament at the height of the ghar wapsi campaign.”
While former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission A.C. Michael is also hoping for action, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien, who was also a speaker at the function where Mr. Modi spoke, insisted that when the Prime Minister — “the leader of the nation” — gave an assurance, “what more is needed?” Pointing out that every political organisation, including the Congress, had dissenting voices, he said: “Ignore the fringe elements; listen to the PM. I have no doubt he will be able to implement what he says.”
The Syro-Malabar Church initially wanted to celebrate the elevation of two beatified members of the church — Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphrasia — to sainthood on February 2 with a religious function. However, Mr. Modi expressed his inability to attend it on February 2 and suggested February 17 instead.