New Delhi: “My government has only one religion – India first,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, assuring Parliament of his commitment to religious equality and tolerance.
“Nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of religion. My government has only this ideology – India and the Constitution above all else,” he said, amid concerns and criticism that religious minorities are being targeted by Hindu extremists.
His reassurance comes after a series of attacks on Christian institutions and churches in Delhi; this week, a church in Mangalore in Karnataka was vandalized.
A week ago, at an event organized by Christian leaders in Delhi, Mr Modi had said, “No religious group can incite violence… my government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith.”
Opponents say that since coming to office, Mr Modi has failed to rein in affiliate groups of his party, the BJP, from suggesting that the government will follow a Hindu agenda. The last Parliament session was stalled with a united opposition protesting against ghar wapasi, a campaign by hardliner Hindu groups to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.
President Barack Obama, during his visit to Delhi last month, had stated that India’s success depends on its not splintering along religious lines. Back in America, he said that Mahatma Gandhi would have been astounded by recent acts of religious intolerance in India.
The government had retaliated sharply, with senior minister Arun Jaitley declaring India has “a huge cultural history of tolerance; any aberrations do not alter that history.”