India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally publicly vowed to protect all of India’s religious minority groups. This comes as an apparent response to a string of attacks in Christian buildings in New Delhi. Since coming to power in May 2014, Prime Minister Modi’s government has seen attacks on religious minorities skyrocket. Before today, many claimed that the prime minister tacitly approved of these attacks on religious minorities. Will Prime Minister Modi’s remarks today signal a change for religious minorities in India?
2/17/2015 India (Yahoo News) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Tuesday to protect all religious groups, an apparent response to a series of attacks on Christian institutions in New Delhi fueling concerns that minorities are being targeted by Hindu zealots.
Critics say that Modi’s government, which is led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has failed to protect religious minorities and rein in Hindu extremists emboldened by its election victory last year.
“I condemn all incidents of violence where religious minorities were targeted,” Modi told an event organized by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year.
“No religious group can incite violence … my government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith.”
Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, rarely attends events organized by minority communities.
His decision to appear among Christians followed a drubbing for his party in elections to the Delhi local assembly last week, where it won just three of 70 seats, raising concerns that it could face setbacks in other state elections on the horizon.
The poll took place against the backdrop of a clash between police and priests, nuns and parishioners who were protesting over a series of vandalism and arson attacks on churches.
Last week, Modi summoned Delhi’s police chief after a sixth attack on a Christian building, but leaders of the community complained that he needed to do more to make them feel safe in a country that enshrines secularism despite its Hindu majority.
About a fifth of India’s 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism.
Religious conversions have become a sensitive issue in recent months after hardliners with links to the BJP said Hinduism was under threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change their faith.
“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” Modi said.