Obama Warns India on Minorities Rights
President Barrack Obama’s recent visit to India has been dubbed a “bromance” by India media, as both Obama and Modi enjoyed tea together in a lotus garden, broadcast-ed a radio show together, and spent two hours conversing in a rain-splashed military parade. However, on the concluding day of his visit, President Obama pleaded for freedom of religion to be upheld in India. Although President Obama made no direct reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its auxiliary fanatic Sangh Parivar, whose rise to power has encouraged the Hindu fanatics to work on the agenda of Hindutva – Hindutva a clear agenda of Hindunization of India.
Obama warned India not to divert from its constitutional obligation to allow its citizen to freely “profess, practice and propagate” religion. He said ‘Your Article 25 (of the Indian constitution) says that all people are ‘equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines and it is unified as one nation. He added “In both our countries, in all countries, upholding this fundamental freedom is the responsibility of government, but it’s also the responsibility of every person.”
President Obama may not have known that the explanation of the article 25 of the Indian Constitution itself is considered to be controversial. The explanation of article 25 curtails the religious identity of Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists of India by not recognizing them as separate religious entity and treating them as Hindus.
Prior, Obama’s visit to India, human right activists initiated an online petition to the White House, urging Obama to stress upon Modi to “preserve and promote the religious freedom” of minorities and raise concerns about reports of violence against Christians.
Only days after warning in New Delhi about the need to promote religious forbearance, Obama pleaded the same during a speech in Washington. He described India as a place where “religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs”. He added, ‘Mahatma Gandhi would have been shocked by communal violence in the mainly Hindu country.’ Obama’s comments came on the same day that a protest in Delhi by Christians to condemn a sequence of attacks on churches ended in clashes with police that saw a nun knocked to the ground in the violence.
A report — “100 days under the New Regime — the state of Minorities” — released last year at the protest by leaders of various Christian denominations, Muslims and community activists pointed out that there have been more than 600 attacks on minorities during the first three months of the rule of Hindu nationalist BJP. The report suggested that ‘first 100 days of the new regime have, however, seen the rising pitch of a crescendo of hate speech against Muslims and Christians. Their identity derided, their patriotism scoffed at, their citizenship questioned, their faith mocked.’’ It further adds, “The environment has degenerated into one of coercion, divisiveness, and suspicion. This has percolated to the small towns and villages of rural India, severing bonds forged in a dialogue of life over the centuries, shattering the harmony built around the messages of peace and brotherhood.’’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has constantly been alleged not to stop his extreme supporters from attacking and forcibly converting Muslims and Christians in India. Extremist Hindu groups like the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and Bajrang Dal say that Indian Muslims and Christians were all Hindus who have converted to other faiths over the last few centuries and that they should be converted back to Hinduism. During the recent months, a number of religious ceremonies have been organized in different parts of India by Hindu hard-line groups, close to Mr Modi’s BJP, to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.
On repeated warnings from President Obama, some Indian media outlets are now talking about Obama’s “bad manners” akin to “rapping the knuckles” of a host after having enjoyed the hospitality of his home. The fact remains that BJP will have to safeguard the religious minorities in India if it wants to achieve tangible results from Obama-Modi meeting.