From Urdu Press: Praise, apprehensions following Modi's religious tolerance speech

February 26, 2015 01:58 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent speech on religious tolerance and communal amity has been welcomed by people of different faiths and cultures in the country. After being at the receiving end of extremist elements in the Sangh Pariwar following BJP's ascent to power, it resembled a sweet breeze for many.

While talking at a canonization ceremony of two priests of Syro-Malabar in the Indian Catholic Church, Modi talked in lucid details about India's secular past, religious tolerance and the Gandhian philosophy that is part of common culture and tradition. The prime minister in a very carefully worded speech said his government will ensure that this religious tolerance is followed in letter and spirit across the country.

"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", Modi told the gathering of religious priests.

While talking on the same occasion Prime Minister went on to add, "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.", Modi said at the ceremony of Syro-Malabar Christian community.  

Modi's speech has been welcomed by people of all faith who were pleading for months to do what he had promised in speech after speech during the Lok Sabha elections. 

Leaders of many faiths were asking the Prime Minister to rein in the aggressive onslaught of Hindutva elements who seemed to be having a field day since the BJP came to power. Ghar wapsi campaigns were becoming so common that we lost the count about such conversion ceremonies organized by VHP and Bajrang Dal. 

Urdu media has welcomed Prime Minister Modi's speech, hoping he will ensure it is respected by rowdy elements in saffron camp, and religious pluralism that has been the best aspect of Indian landscape remains untarnished. 

In an editorial page write-up in Urdu Daily Rashtriya Sahara, a columnist says, "Whatever the Prime Minister said is a welcome change and should be appreciated. But there are some unanswered questions that may seek his attention. On top of my mind is his assurance to take tough action against people spreading religious intolerance and hostility against other religions. Does he intend to take legal action against hate mongers like Sakshi Maharaj, Aditya Nath, Sadhwi Prarachi and others who have been spewing venom against Muslims and Christians?"

"These are the people who have been trying to vitiate the peaceful ambience in the country by talking repeatedly about Ghar Wapsi, Love Jihad and turning the nation into a Hindu rashtra. These are the same people who have been trying to corner minorities and create gulf among different communities across India. Will Prime Minister Modi show guts to take action against Vishwa Hindu Parishad that has been openly sponsoring all such programs against Muslims and Christians?", asks the Rashtriya Sahara columnist. 

The issue has been covered in other Urdu newspapers in detail as well. Another columnist in Urdu Daily Inquilab, a sister concern of Dainik Jagran says, "When Prime Minister Modi was trying to attract people with his impressive political speeches during Lok Sabha elections last year, it looked a rebirth of Modi. His words gave hope that good days are finally set to arrive. His famed slogan "sabka saath, Sabka vikas" gave him a groundswell of support from almost all sections of population. His speeches reflected his desire to cleanse politics from criminals, ensure safety, security and welfare of women, establish good neighborly relations with other countries of the area and above all accepts minorities especially Muslims as integral part of India".

"Had Prime Minister spoken these words before American President Barack Obama's criticism or very critical articles that appeared in New York Times and other international media, it would have been great. For the biggest democratic nation in the world, it is reprehensible that another head of state preaches us lessons in how to treat minorities" said the newspaper. 

While concluding, the columnist said, "We shouldn't allow others to preach us in matters of governance, no matter be it a small newspaper or a powerful nation like US. Now as he has spoken and spoken well we believe he will live up to his promises and come out with a plan on how he wants to ensure harmony in the country. He should convey from ramparts of Parliament that there is no scope of communalism in the country after today".
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