Modi, govt commits to ‘equal respect to all religions’

modiNEW DELHI: The usual notions of minorities and their alienation are not valid in the Indian context, the Narendra Modi government has told a global meet in the US, while citing the “pro-active” steps taken by the Centre and states to strengthen bonds between communities.

The Indian delegation highlighted the success story of recently held elections in “Muslim majority” Jammu and Kashmir in which 65% electorates cast their votes.

During his recent visit to India, US President Barack Obama did raise the issue of religious tolerance in a speech from Siri Fort, and then reiterated it at a later event in Washington DC when he remarked “acts of intolerance” in India in recent years “would have shocked Gandhiji”.

Addressing a White House summit on ‘Counter Violent Extremism’ — held in Washington last week, the delegation said the government was taking proactive measures to ensure socio-economic and political integration of different communities, including steps to ensure the rights of the 180-million-strong Muslim population.

“Going by the usual definition of minority, their population is over 260 million i.e. over 21% of India’s population. There are over 180 million Muslims in India,” RN Ravi, chairman of a joint intelligence committee and leader of the Indian team, said at the seminar attended by representatives of 60 countries.

Ravi said India’s core strength is its liberal plural secular democracy and it ensures socio-economic and political integration of communities comprising the Indian demographic mosaic with Indian mainstream.

“The government of India and the state governments pro-actively take several affirmative actions that strengthen bonds between the communities,” he told the meet.

“Education being the most critical to empowerment, India lays special emphasis on it. Nearly half the annual budget of ministry of minority affairs is dedicated for empowerment of smaller communities through education.

He said during the last five years, over 40 million boys and girls belonging to the smaller communities have been given scholarships for higher and technical studies. Special emphasis is laid on girls education.

The Indian delegation leader said India’s story of keeping all the communities integrated is unique in many ways and even though India has some 180 million Muslims, there is hardly any case of recruitment of Indian Muslims to any of the violence in Islamic militant groups.

“Terrorism that India faces has their source often outside the country. India’s response to violent extremism is calibrated in a way that prevents disproportionate use of force by the state. India has never used air power or any area weapons in combating violent extremism,” he told the international audience.

“Even in areas where Indian Army is deployed for combating terrorism, it is subject to the Indian civil laws and functions as an empowered police.”

The ninistry of minority affairs gives special focus on education and economic empowerment of smaller communities and their institutions besides women empowerment.

“The range of affirmative actions of the government for the benefit of smaller communities have proved highly successful in strengthening a sense of unity and integration. India also has a National Commission for Minorities, mandated by the Constitution to address their grievances,” he said.

Amid talks of religious intolerance in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said recently his “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”.

At an event to commemorate the canonization of two Indians by the Vatican on February 17, Modi said: “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.” – From Press Trust India

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