Obama prods India for religious freedom

Parting shot: Nation to succeed only if it is not divided
Last Updated 27 January 2015, 20:04 IST

In a parting shot, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday prodded India on “religious freedom” and said the country known for its diversity would succeed as long as it was not divided on the basis of faith.

“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,” Obama said shortly before leaving for Saudi Arabia at the end of a three-day visit to New Delhi.

The US president used a speech he delivered to a packed Siri Fort Auditorium here on Tuesday to send out a message on religious freedom.

The speech came in the backdrop of recent controversies over “Ghar Wapsi” or reconversion campaign launched by the Sangh Parivar and also endorsed by some MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.    

Obama on Tuesday referred to Article 25 of the Constitution of India and said that it was the responsibility of the government and people to protect and uphold the freedom of religion.

“Your (Constitution’s) Article 25 says all people are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and have right to freely profess and practice and propagate religion. In both our countries (India and the US), in all countries, upholding freedom of religion is the utmost responsibility of the government, but also the responsibility of every person,” said the US president.

Obama referred to Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Recalling that Vivekananda had started his speech addressing the audience as “Brothers and Sisters of America”, the US president said that he should address the audience as “Brothers and Sisters of India”.

He said the US and India had people from different religious beliefs – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Jews.

Obama recalled that Mahatma Gandhi had said that different religions were beautiful flowers of the same garden and branches from the “same majestic tree”. 

“No society is immune to the darkest impulses of men and that more often religion has been used to tap into it,” the US president said.

(Published 27 January 2015, 20:04 IST)

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