Modi asked to walk the talk on religious freedom


 Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP MP from Gandhinagar L K Advani at the Parliament ahead of the budget session of the house in New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP MP from Gandhinagar L K Advani at the Parliament ahead of the budget session of the house in New Delhi

The Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said the Christian community was in a state of shock over RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comment on Mother Teresa and that it was time Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked the talk on his assurance on not tolerating inciting of religious hatred.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Sambit Patra, however, declined to comment on Bhagwat’s statement. “I would not be commenting on this,” Patra said.

Bhagwat said in Rajasthan Monday that Mother Teresa’s service to the poor was aimed at converting them to Christianity.

Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Father Savarimuthu Sankar criticised Bhagwat for being “ill-informed” and “narrow-minded”.

“Such allegations against Mother Teresa were made even when she was alive. She is an epitome of motherhood. And somebody of her stature is today being accused of some ulterior motive.

“You are degrading her status. On one hand, you recognise her work and uphold her as a Nobel laureate, and on the other hand, you accuse her of motive of conversions. This reflects Bhagwat’s narrow-mindedness. He is not able to look beyond the narrow view of religious conversions. He is so much into that mindset,” Sankar said.

“I am feeling sad because Bhagwat is ill-informed.”

Criticising the BJP-led government, he said: “As a government, you say you want to ensure freedom of religion in this country but your Hindutva ally has a different stand. There is no proper correspondence between their work and action.

“Modi said ‘we will not tolerate religious intolerance’. But he should also be able to reign in these elements like the RSS,” he said.

“When Modi says he is an RSS pracharak, then he can’t disown his leader Bhagwat.

“It’s not enough to say ‘it’s not the opinion of the government, and we have no right to correct it’, when you identify yourself as an RSS pracharak.

“If Modi continues to be silent on this remark, it will create a problem.”

Sankar said the “Christian community is in a state of shock. Hardly a week after the PM made that statement, Bhagwat is accusing Mother Teresa who is dead and has been declared as a blessed saint. A well-informed person would never make a such statement.

“The PM says one thing and the Sangh Parivaar says another. There is no follow-up of what the PM said. There is a feeling of uncertainty among the Christians. The PM’s speech was all rhetorical. It needs to be translated to some action as well.

“This incident is an opportunity for the prime minister to show he meant those words and walk the talk. You said you would not tolerate, then show it by taking strict action against Bhagwat and reign him in,” he said.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has supported Bhagwat.

VHP national spokesperson Surendra Jain said: “There is no contradiction between what the PM said and what Bhagwat said yesterday (Monday). Hindus are in majority in this country. And the Hindu culture is founded on the principle of harmony and tolerance.

“Mother Teresa’s agenda of conversion is a well-known fact. It is unfortunate that she is seen as a sacred cow in this country.”

The Indian Christian Voice (ICV) also reacted sharply Bhagwat’s remarks, terming them an insult to all who for the poor and urged Prime Minister Modi to strongly condemn them.

In a statement issued in Mumbai Tuesday, ICV president Abraham Mathai urged the RSS to first serve and care for lepers, AIDS victims and the poor before making comments that are in “extremely bad taste”.