Prime Minister’s assurance
Who will Modi protect, the churches or his Parivar?
By Faraz Ahmad
Media went to town over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first remarks over religious intolerance at a function organised in New Delhi by the Syro-Malabar Catholic church of Kerala to canonize two Indian Christian priests Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and Malabar Church Cardinal George Alenchery.
Modi who has maintained a stoic silence for last nine months after assuming office, despite repeated assaults on churches in several parts of northern India, announced with some elan, “My government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his choice…My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or minority, to incite hatred against others overtly or covertly…”
Simultaneously Modi’s unannounced spokesperson Arun Jaitley tried to make it more contextual by stating “These should be regarded as unacceptable aberrations in a society as liberal as India…”
Here, here, here! Modi and his government has redeemed itself by this singular gesture and the media has been full of praise for Modi’s act of benevolence and generosity towards these wretched Christians. People should be beholden to Modi and alongside to legal eagle Jaitley for finally closing the issue of Ghar Wapsi. Modi’s apologists like that Zakat Foundation fellow Zafar Mehmood, lobbying for the then Gujarat chief minister for over two years now were quick to commend the Prime Minister for this act.
The Opposition though took this with a sackful of salt and asked him to walk the talk and start the mischief makers, pointedly mentioning the ‘Haramzadon’ public utterance of Union Minister Niranjan Jyoti. The JD-U and the Trinamul Congress credited the resounding the defeat the BJP faced in the Delhi assembly elections as responsible for the change of heart of the Prime Minister.
However it was left to the VHP to put the Prime Minister’s statement in proper perspective and threw the ball back in Modi’s court to clarify who was he addressing, his Ghar Wapsi Hindutva brigade of VHP/RSS or the proselytizing Christian priests. At least VHP Joint general secretary Surendra Jain believes the Prime Minister was actually sending a warning signal to the Christian priests and in effect justifying the vandalizing of churches.
Soon after Modi’s function, Jain summoned the media to the VHP Media Centre at South Avenue and said the media had read the Prime Minister’s message wrong because this was a message to Christians “who had been attacking the Hindus.” The VHP leader pointed out that “The PM didn’t say ‘minorities’ nor did he mention any particular religion…When he has not taken any names, you have to see in what circumstances he has made the statements. The supposed attacks on churches have going on for a while now but the PM never came out and spoke. He spoke only after the Delhi Police pointed out that 206 temples were attacked. He spoke on a day a temple was vandalized in the US.”
Jain reiterated that since the PM statement was not directed against the Hindu groups the VHP programme against ‘love jihad and its Ghar Wapsi programmes would continue uninterrupted.
So while Modi attempted to obfuscate the issue, it was left to the leading light of his parivar, to highlight the issue in its proper perspective. Now it is for the Prime Minister to clarify whether his remarks were directed against the same Christian priests who came calling on him or his Parivar. Going by the Haramazadon episode, one can safely bet that the Prime Minister will revert back to his characteristic silence.
Prime Minister’s assurance