Within weeks of raising a row on his India trip by highlighting role of religious extremism in India, which was taken as a hint of warning to PM Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to control the alleged rightist extremism by the Sangh Parivar outfits, US President Barack Obama has again raised hackles in the power echelons of Delhi.
This time he has raised the pitch considerably and said that 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 top 5 talking points:
* Mahatma Gandhi and religion: Michelle and I returned from India, a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs – acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation,” Barack Obama said in his remarks at the high-profile National Prayer Breakfast.
* Religious intolerance: The US President did not name any particular religion and said the violence is not unique to one group or one religion, but the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and others activities have received much coverage in the media, over ‘Love jihad’, and conversions in particular, with no public rebuke on this coming from PM Narendra Modi.
* Call to action: “We have to speak up against those who would misuse His name. Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout history. No god condones terror,” Barack Obama said.
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* Rising online rage: “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try,” said Barack Obama.
* Religion and terrorism: Barack Obama spoke out against terrorism, saying “from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris” and the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, all are “so often perpetrated in the name of religion.”
* White House on US President’s comment: The White House on Wednesday strongly refuted allegations that Obama’s remarks on religious tolerance was aimed at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying the speech in its entirety was about the “core democratic values and principles” of both the US and India.
Significantly, Barack Obama’s comments came a day after the White House refuted suggestions that the US President’s public speech in New Delhi town hall meeting at the Sirifort auditorium in which he touched upon religious tolerance was a “parting shot” aimed at the ruling BJP. Obama had made a strong pitch for religious tolerance, cautioning that India will succeed so long as it was not “splintered along the lines of religious faith”.