New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) India has a history of tolerance, and aberrations can’t alter it, the government said Friday after US President Barack Obama said “acts of intolerance” in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh reacted to Obama’s statement at a National Prayer Breakfast along with Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama in Washington Thursday.
This is the second time in 10 days that Obama referred to religious tolerance in India. At a Jan 27 talk in New Delhi, he had said that “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines”.
Asked about Obama’s latest statement, Jaitely said: “India has a huge history of tolerance. Any aberration doesn’t alter India’s history of tolerance.”
Obama had said: “Michelle and I returned from India – an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity – but 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.”
Rajnath Singh, speaking in Uttarakhand, said: “India is the only country where you find people of all sects of all religions and we do not discriminate against anybody on the basis of religion caste and creed.”
Other political parties used Obama’s remarks to target the Narendra Modi government.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal quipped: “I think Modi will answer this; they (Modi and Obama) are very good friends.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad tweeted: “My position on religious liberty endorsed by Obama.”
Manish Tewari of the Congress posted a sarcasm-laced tweet: “Did the Prime Ministerial Tea reinforce Barack’s understanding of the revivalism and intolerance intrinsic in the BJP government.”
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad meanwhile asked Obama not to sermonize and instead take care of the Blacks in the US.
In his Jan 27 speech at Siri Fort, Obama had said: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith — so long as it’s not splintered along any lines — and is unified as one nation.”
The speech, his final before leaving for the US after a three-day visit, was viewed in the backdrop of controversial utterances by rightwing fringe elements of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The White House, however, said the speech had been misconstrued as a kind of a parting shot.
“I think that’s been somewhat misconstrued, if you look at the context of the entire speech, it’s really about inclusivity. It’s about the power of diversity,” said Phil Reiner, White House’s senior director for South Asian Affairs.