Community News Weekly EXAMINER, Deletes Uncomfortable Matter from a Letter;

The Examiner of Jan 31 – Feb 6 carries my letter to editor… But it has been edited to their convenience… reproducing herewith both, the original one as well as  the published one… You decide on their intentions and if it is right for them to do so…See the matter that has been deleted….how important it was.
GREG

 

EXAMINER JAN 31 - FEB 6

ORIGINAL LETTER SENT TO EDITOR

GREG R PEREIRA
A7 Rodrigues Compound, Malwani Village, Marve Rd.
Malad (W), Mumbai – 400095;
Contact: Cell: 9870719628; E Mail: pereiragreg@ymail.com

To,
The Editor,
The Examiner,

SAVE OUR CROSSES

Sir – BMC has begun pasting notices on HOLY CROSSES in the City, inviting documents, to prove their legality. This is the repeat of the same process, which was undertaken in 2011 and before, by BMC. It is well known that HOLY CROSSES, Symbol of our Faith, are more than Century old and they don’t need any evidence to prove that they are LEGAL.

However, due to changed circumstances, if necessary, we must come forward to SAVE OUR CROSSES. Community members are agitated because, in spite of providing necessary evidence, in some cases more than once, BMC is repeatedly pasting notices and inviting evidence. This is happening, just because people have acted individually, case by case and forgotten about it. To tackle this menace, collective action is needed. We therefore, suggest the following.

We agree that these HOLY CROSSES being more than a century old, it is difficult to find documents. However, try to obtain a Property TIKA Sheet which shows plot nos. of around one square KM area, along with structures standing on it, if they are prior to 1960; from concern City Survey Office. This is good enough evidence to prove existence of the Cross. In case of HOLY CROSS, it will marked as + or something similar. Take a Xerox of the area on TIKA sheet and submit to BMC office and get the acknowledgement.

We suggest, after completing this exercise, share the information with persons willing to store it at central location and can make it available as and when required. I have taken upon myself, the responsibility of Crosses coming under jurisdiction of St. Anthony’s Church; Malwani. Once all the CROSSES are secured, further steps can be taken collectively to inform the Court/BMC authority about it to amend their records in order to resolve this issue once and for all.

DELETED PARAS

It is sad that Archdiocesan authorities have abdicated their responsibility vis a vis Crosses lining the streets of Mumbai. Cardinal Oswald Gracias expressed his inability to do so, over phone, citing certain reasons, in response to my letter. We the Lay Catholics, have to take onus on us to save these HOLY CROSSES and in turn, Save Christian Character of the CITY of Mumbai.

However, we expect Archdiocesan authorities, at least, to instruct Parishes, to make an announcement, repeatedly, to educate masses in order to galvanize them into action.

GREG R. PEREIRA

EDITED LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE EXAMINER….

SAVE OUR CROSSES

Sir – BMC has begun pasting notices on HOLY CROSSES in the City, inviting documents, to prove their legality. This is the repeat of the same process, which was undertaken in 2011 and before, by BMC. It is well known that HOLY CROSSES, Symbol of our Faith, are more than Century old and they don’t need any evidence to prove that they are LEGAL.

However, due to changed circumstances, if necessary, we must come forward to SAVE OUR CROSSES. Community members are agitated because, in spite of providing necessary evidence, in some cases more than once, BMC is repeatedly pasting notices and inviting evidence. This is happening, just because people have acted individually, case by case and forgotten about it. To tackle this menace, collective action is needed. We therefore, suggest the following.

We agree that these HOLY CROSSES being more than a century old, it is difficult to find documents. However, try to obtain a Property TIKA Sheet which shows plot nos. of around one square KM area, along with structures standing on it, if they are prior to 1960; from concern City Survey Office. This is good enough evidence to prove existence of the Cross. In case of HOLY CROSS, it will marked as + or something similar. Take a Xerox of the area on TIKA sheet and submit to BMC office and get the acknowledgement.

We suggest, after completing this exercise, share the information with persons willing to store it at central location and can make it available as and when required. I have taken upon myself, the responsibility of Crosses coming under jurisdiction of St. Anthony’s Church; Malwani. Once all the CROSSES are secured, further steps can be taken collectively to inform the Court/BMC authority about it to amend their records in order to resolve this issue once and for all.

GREG R. PEREIRA

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Modi is reminded that religious minorities are not for killing

Christians, Muslims fear US president’s plea for tolerance will not be heeded

  • John Dayal, Delhi
  • India
  • January 30, 2015

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, does not like to be told that he, his government, his political party or the cadres of his old group, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh [RSS], have done something wrong.

Over the course of three days this week, he was politely reminded that India’s religious minorities, particularly, were uneasy, and any adverse occurrences would seriously impact the promise of development on which he rode to power last year.

US President Barack Obama made international headlines with his “town hall” speech in Delhi as he concluded a three-day visit to India for its Republic Day.

The speech offered a rather sharp lesson on what makes a country great — not economic progress or military might, but the unity of its people brought about by a shared destiny, the hope of progress among the most marginalized and a sense of security among its religious minorities.

But it was the Indian president, the 79-year old Pranab Mukherjee, who delivered a homily that was the strongest caution yet about the threat posed to unity and progress in India from the religious nationalism of the RSS.

Mukherjee did not name the RSS, or its many associates in the Sangh Parivar family, but his address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day on January 26 — which marks the promulgation of the constitution in 1950 — dwelt at some length on the issue.

In his address, Mukherjee said: “In an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence … we have always reposed our trust in faith-equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic.

“The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people’s hearts. The Indian constitution is the holy book of democracy. It is a lodestar for the socio-economic transformation of an India whose civilization has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. These values, however, need to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance.”

Mukherjee touched on a point that has worried many among those who voted for Modi, hoping he would bring about change and end the corruption and economic coma in which India found itself in the last years of the Congress administration led by Manmohan Singh.

This was the increasing cacophony of many in the Bharatiya Janata Party, including several ministers and members of parliament, who were supporting a demand that India mark itself out as a Hindu Rashtra or Nation, and stop appeasing Muslims and Christians.

Both minority religious groups are seen as enemies of the nation and the majority.

Some among them were quite stridently asking that the constitution be scrapped and replaced by a more “nationalistic” one rooted not in Western concepts but in India’s Hindu tradition.

Industrialists, bankers and businessmen hoping that the new regime would be able to attract international investors and partners, especially from the US, found its response turning tepid, despite Modi’s much-touted visits to Washington, New York, Beijing and Tokyo.

Investors became hesitant not just because economic reforms were not taking place at the speed promised, but also because the country’s human rights environment had, if anything, sharply deteriorated.

The so-called “Ghar Wapsi”, or homecoming campaign, launched by the Sangh Parivar just after the general election to forcibly convert Dalit and Tribal Christians and Muslims to Hinduism was put on hold a week before Obama’s state visit.

It was never in doubt that the campaign, and violence targeting religious groups, would resume.

And resume it did, the day after Obama left India.

Recent data shows almost 150 recorded cases of violence against Christians last year, and several in recent days. Violence against Muslims is feared to be several times more.

The hate campaign, meanwhile, has been ramped up with government leaks from 2011 census data stating that the Muslim population has soared.

The official desegregated data of religious populations is among the last to be made public, but nationalists like to stoke alarm by saying that Muslims breed at a rate that would see them overtake the Hindu population within this century.

The leaked data does show an increase in the Muslim population. Even though the growth rate slowed from 29 percent to 24 percent between 1991 and 2001, it is still higher than the national average of 18 percent for the decade.

It is not just fringe elements or political mavericks who suggest solutions that would be deemed anti-democratic even in military dictatorships — including disenfranchisement of religious groups, or asking Hindu women to produce 10 or more children to maintain a demographic superiority.

There is controversy now about a series of media advertisements by the government that has illustrations of the illustrated preamble of the constitution without two key words, “secular” and “socialist”.

These words were not there in the document signed on January 26, 1950, but were introduced in an amendment passed by parliament in the 1970s.

Much of the social legislation passed in the closing decades of the last century, including employment for rural poor, and scholarships for Muslim youth in particular, were born from those two words.

Talk among those in the highest quarters that the constitution is better off without socialism and secularism has understandably sent shockwaves among the rural poor, Tribals, Dalits, as well as Muslims and Christians in general.

There are growing calls for the Modi government to heed Mukherjee’s warning and stop political discourse becoming a competition in hysteria.

Obama’s parting, and cutting, remarks are evidence that the world is watching India as it stakes its claim to be a member of the elite global economic and strategic clubs.

“Our nations are strongest when we see that we are all God’s children — all equal in His eyes and worthy of His love… Our freedom of religion is written into our founding documents.  It’s part of America’s very first amendment,” Obama said.

“Your Article 25 says that all people are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

“In both our countries — in all countries — upholding this fundamental freedom is the responsibility of government, but it’s also the responsibility of every person,” he said.

“Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

Unfortunately, many in the Indian civil rights movement, especially activists on freedom of faith issues, fear their struggle will get increasingly grimmer.

John Dayal is the general secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council.

Source: UCANews,

Glimmer of Hope and Summary of SOUL Campaign…

SOUL campaign is in its third year of  agitation, fighting for justice against Unjust land acquisition Notice by BMC, for widening the road. After over two years of hard work by all, a glimmer of hope is visible. But it is still a long way to go. SOUL has managed to get BMC authorities to place on record that the Road Line (RL) needs to be looked at, once again. Instructions to that effect have been passed on to relevant authorities….Let us wait and watch.

Journey of SOUL has been documented and produced below…

GREG

 

IMG_9591

 SOUL COMMITTEE LEADING THE MARCH TO P NORTH OFFICE

Flashback on SOUL in NEW YEAR with NEW REGIME in state

With advent of New Year and New regime at helm of the state, it is imperative that we take stock of a progress made by SOUL – SAVE OUR LAND hitherto. This is a small effort to revive our memories which I dedicate to each and everyone, who participated in whatever small way possible.

 

SUMMARY OF SOUL ACTIVITY VIS A VIS UNJUST LAND ACQUISITION;

October 21st, 2012 will be remembered by every parishioner of St. Anthony’s Church, Malwani; because on that day, a movement was started, to fight against injustice. A week before, on 14th of October, to be precise, the much needed churning started when the area MLA from whom the parishioners expected support, put his hands up by saying, ‘ROAD LINE IS SACROSANCT AND IT CAN NOT BE CHANGED’

The following Sunday, i. e. 21st of October, 2012; parishioners resolved to take the fight against injustice ahead on their own and SOUL (Save Our Land) was born. SOUL has been fighting to save our 150 years old Parochial House, which BMC is trying to demolish for road widening. SOUL has till now kept them at bay. Thanks to the Parishioners from Malwani as well as Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Kandivali; who are also affected by similar unjust land acquisition by BMC, for widening of Poinsar River.

SOUL carried out many agitations like Protest Rallies, SILENT March on Ward Offices of BMC…Prominent among them are:

  1. Rally at OL of Assumption Church Kandivali on 12th December, 2012; attended by over 5000 parishioners as well as parents of the students from St. Joseph’s School.
  2. Rally at Infant Jesus Chapel Kharodi, on 5th January, 2013. This rally was unique in a sense that people silently marched with candles in hand, from two directions; one starting from HOLY CROSS near Asmita Jyoti Complex and other march Began from St. Anthony’s Church, Malwani, stopping traffic from both ends. This rally was attended by around 8000 people.
  3. 19th, January, 2013; crowd of around 12000, walked silently to BMC P North office at Liberty Garden, Malad; from St. Anthony’s Church, Malwani; And presented a memorandum to Asst. Commissioner, Shri Devendra Kumar Jain. Road from Adarsh Junction on Marve Road to Liberty Garden was closed for traffic because of crowd squatting on the road while delegation of SOUL was in the meeting with Mr. Jain.

This day also witnessed visit by Municipal Commissioner Shri Sitaram kunte; both, at Malwani as well as Kandivali. It is perceived that his visit was slated deliberately to coincide with proposed march to derail the same. But the organizing Committee successfully handled the situation.16th, of February, 2013; saw another massive march on R South BMC ward office, participated by large numbers. Delegation of SOUL Presented a Memorandum to Deputy Municipal Commissioner Shri Marathe.

  1. To top it, all a massive Rally, one of its kind where passive Catholic Community enthusiastically participated, at Azad Maidan on 15th of March 2014; attended by over 10000. Importantly, parishioners from around Sixty odd parishes within Archdiocese of Mumbai Participated..

A Challenge was thrown at BMC authorities from their own backyard. Delegation of SOUL met Shri Sitaram Kunte, BMC Commissioner, and handed him a memorandum and evidence of BMC’s Manipulation of ROAD LINE (RL), which has been moved towards Church Property.

Apart from above mentioned actions, SOUL also knocked on the door of various constitutional authorities.

  • Shri Sitaram Kunte; BMC Commissioner: 20th, December, 2012; SOUL team comprising of about Fifteen SOULmates, with kind courtesy of Mr. Julio Rebeiro, former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai; met the Commissioner in his office at BMC Headquarters to convey our dissatisfaction over unjust Land Acquisition Notice. Mr. Kunte then Promised to make a site visit, which has been mentioned above.
  • Priya Dutt, Ex MP: SOUL delegation met Priya Dutt and apprised her of the injustice, with a request to fix an appointment with former CM, Shri Prithviraj Chavan, which never came by.
  • Ashish Shelar, MLC (Now MLA): Adv. Ashish Shelar took this matter up in Legislative Council, to which former Chief Minister replied. However, his reply bypassed the real problem; obviously, he was misguided by BMC authorities. SOUL has responded in details.
  • Shri Sunil Prabhu; former Mayor; BMC: Through good office of Shri Ram Barot, Chairman of BMC’s Improvement Committee met the Mayor and explained our grievances to him. Mr. Prabhu instructed Mr. Barot to look into the matter personally and report to him. In this context Mr. Barot visited the site and had few meetings with SOUL team.
  • Shri Prithviraj Chavan:   SOUL had an opportunity to meet former CM shri Prithviraj Chavan; on the fringe of Community Leaders meeting called by Ms Janet D’souza, Vice President of Minorities Commission. In Brief time, he was presented with a booklet cum memorandum, explaining the grievances, requesting him for more time so that he could be apprised of the matter in details. The meeting did not materialize.

SOUL has been fighting to set things right, which BMC authorities have mangled deliberately. All are aware; our community is not against development. In fact, Church has surrendered around 1000 sq. ft of land in current phase of road widening. In the case where SOUL is protesting, the original ROAD LINE (RL), BMC has clandestinely moved it towards Church Property, in order to conceal their mischief of allowing the builder to the usage of land, over the RL on the other side. SOUL has proved this to BMC authorities, giving evidence, obtained through Right to Information (RTI). BMC is silent over it.

Manipulation of RL is criminal offence, which BMC authorities have committed. Adv. Godfrey Pimenta, President of Watchdog Foundation and supporter of SOUL, has applied for SANCTION TO PROSECUTE them under section 197 of C. R. Pc., which is required as per the law.

1st, December, 2014; SOUL, sent a letter of appeal to Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis for audience, in order to make a presentation of our grievance; Hoping that he would oblige.

SOUL Team met Shri Gopal Shetty, MP, North Mumbai Constituency, on 6th, December, 2014; under whose jurisdiction this matter falls. He was apprised on the matter with a presentation. He seem to be keen on resolving this issue and has deputed one of his Corporator to fix a meeting between SOUL and BMC authorities. Whether the meeting materializes or not, remains to be seen.

As Instructed by Shri Gopal Shetty, MP; Adv Gyanmurthy Sharma, Chairman of Law Committee of BMC, called for a joint meeting with personnel from Road & Traffic, Development Plan and P North of BMC. In this meeting SOUL Committee succeeded in convincing the Chair that Road Line indeed has been manipulated to move it around 25 ft. towards Church property, in order to protect Building Proposal Department, who approved plans for buildings on RL, on opposite side. SOUL clearly stated that Church cannot be penalized for folly of BMC engineers. Adv. Gyanmurty then issued a directive to resurvey the line and submit the report.

SOUL will continue its fight against injustice, till the RL is restored to its original level, i. e. equidistance from the middle of existing road on both sides, as it has been the case on entire stretch of Marve Road, except near the Church/School.

Apart from Watchdog Foundation, various other associations and persons lent their support for this just cause. Prominent among them are Adv. Vivian D’souza, President of Bombay East Indian Associatio (BEIA), Mobai Gaothan Panchayat and others. SOUL is grateful to all of them. SOUL is also grateful to Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias, for sending his message, which was read by Fr. KT Emmanuel, at AZAD Maidan Rally on 15th of March, 2014.

GREG

MINUTES OF THE MEETING

MEETING WITH ADV. GYANMURTHY...MINUTES PG. 1MEETING WITH ADV. GYANMURTHY..MINUTES PG. 2MEETING WITH ADV. GYANMURTHY  MINUTES. PG. 3

Minorities concerned over signs of communal discord: Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman

Twenty-six percent of the state’s 1.5 million population is Catholic.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao.

Panaji: Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman ducked questions about comments made by an RSS functionary on the possibility of ‘ghar wapsi’ of Goa Catholics, but said minorities in other parts of India were concerned about emerging signs of communal discord.

Ferrao was speaking at the annual function organized at the Bishop’s Palace in Panaji, which was attended by many top political, bureaucratic and social dignitaries.

The archbishop later refused to take questions on the Goa aspect of the ‘ghar wapsi’ (home-coming) controversy.

“Whatever I had to say, I have said. This is not a press conference,” Ferrao said.

After conducting a training session for young volunteers, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) office-bearer Sharad Kunte said the organisation was willing to welcome Catholics whose ancestors were converted during the Portuguese colonial rule generations back.

“If they want to come back, we are ready to welcome them… It’s like this, the Portuguese had forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. They (those converted) are not around now, but I think their later generations are,” said Kunte, who heads the RSS intellectual wing for the western region.

The comments triggered agitated reactions from Goa’s minority community as well as from the opposition parties.

Earlier in his address, Ferrao gave a clean chit to the Goa government for maintaining a harmonious church-state relationship, but also expressed regret that the same was not the case as far as the rest of India was concerned.

“We are, however, anguished to see that the picture of the church and state relationship that we have drawn here is quite different from what obtains in many other parts of our country,” he said.

“In recent times, however, we are observing certain signs which are causing grave concern, particularly to the minorities, and which threaten to break down the fibre of our nation. One of the worst internal enemies of a nation is communal discord. It can disintegrate a nation,” he added.

Calling communalism a “hydra” (a many-headed serpent in Greek mythology), Ferrao hoped that “our political leaders, both at the state and the national level, commit themselves to create an environment where everyone is respected and protected, irrespective of social, cultural or religious affiliations or differences”.

Twenty-six percent of the state’s 1.5 million population is Catholic. Goa was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years until it was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961 by the Indian Army.

In the earlier part of the Portuguese regime, a large number of Goans were converted by Catholic missionaries, often by force, according to documented historical texts.

Source: indiagazette

In parting shot, Obama prods India on religious freedom

“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,” Barak Obama;

President Obama waves to the audience after he delivered a speech at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

President Obama waves to the audience after he delivered a speech at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi January 27, 2015.

CREDIT: REUTERS/AHMAD MASOOD

(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in on one of India’s most sensitive topics as he wound up a visit on Tuesday, making a plea for freedom of religion to be upheld in a country with a history of strife between Hindus and minorities.

Hours before boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia, Obama warned India not to stray from its constitutional commitment to allow people to freely “profess, practice and propagate” religion.

“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,” he said in a townhall address to mostly young Indians.

Obama’s speech, after three days in New Delhi aimed at cementing a strategic partnership, was widely interpreted as a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose rise to power emboldened activists to declare India a nation of Hindus.

He made no direct reference to Modi, who was banned from U.S. travel for nearly a decade until last year after deadly Hindu-Muslim violence in a state he ruled in 2002.

Lately, religious conversion has again become a divisive political issue, after hardliners with links to the BJP claimed Hinduism was under threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change their faith.

About a fifth of India’s 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism.

“The message is that India is a democratic country, it is not a Hindu country or a Christian country, it is all together, India has respect for all religions,” said Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, a Muslim priest who heads the All India Imam Organisation, after the speech. He was standing with a Hindu holy man from one of India’s pilgrimage towns, Rishikesh.

Modi has warned lawmakers from his own party to stop promoting controversial issues such as religious conversions and to focus on economic reforms, but Obama’s message was quickly seized by political opponents of the prime minister.

“I do hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was listening to the speech carefully,” said Manish Tewari of the opposition Congress party, criticizing Hindu activists for promoting a “majoritarian ethos that goes against the grain of liberal democracy”.

“MOBAMA”

Obama and Modi’s relaxed manner together during the visit was dubbed a “bromance” in India media, after the two men shared tea in a lotus garden, recorded a radio show together, and spent two hours chatting at a rain-splashed military parade.

In between, they sealed deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and deepen defense ties, and Obama pledged $4 billion in financial backing to release the “untapped potential” of a partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Some of that financing is to help Modi meet his own ambitious goals to use more renewable energy, especially solar, as fast-growing India’s carbon emissions rise.

However, during the visit, India did not commit to a peak emissions target of the kind China and the United States agreed to in November.

“Here’s the truth: even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if growing countries like India – with soaring energy needs – don’t also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don’t stand a chance against climate change,” Obama said.

On Monday, he became the first U.S. president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might long associated with Cold War anti-Americanism.

Obama’s presence at the parade signaled Modi’s willingness to end India’s traditional reluctance to get too close to any big power. Instead, he is seeking close ties with them all, even as he pushes back against a more assertive China and take sides on other global issues.A joint U.S.-India policy statement that focused on free navigation in the South China Sea highlighted this more muscular diplomacy.

ENDORSING INDIAN REFORM

Obama said the United States would stand first in line for the trade and investment opportunities that will spring from the economic reform drive under Modi.

“America wants to be your partner in igniting the next wave of Indian growth. As India pursues reforms to encourage more trade and investment, we’ll be the first in line,” he told the townhall, attended by Michelle Obama and Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

Praising the non-violence tenets of Mahatma Gandhi, Obama touched during his speech on the treatment of women, an issue that has troubled India since the horrific gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi two years ago.

“Every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons,” he said. “And every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street, or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity. She deserves that.”

(Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Value Religious Tolerance and Freedom: US President Barack Obama’s Parting Shot to India

Value Religious Tolerance and Freedom: US President Barack Obama's Parting Shot to India

US President Barack Obama with wife Michelle at an event at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi. (Agence France-Presse)

NEW DELHI US President Barack Obama made a strong appeal for religious freedom at a town hall-style meeting in Delhi on Tuesday, weighing in on one of India’s most controversial topics as he wound up a three-day visit.

“India will succeed as long as it’s not splintered along religious lines…nowhere is it more important to uphold religious freedom than in India,” President Obama said while addressing 2,000 young people at the Siri Fort auditorium.

“Your Article 25 (of the Constitution) says that all people are ‘equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion,” President Obama said, adding, “In both our countries, in all countries, upholding this fundamental freedom is the responsibility of government, but it’s also the responsibility of every person.”

The US President’s remarks come at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been accused by rival political parties of not checking pro-Hindu activists and groups linked to it.

PM Modi had last year warned lawmakers from his party against making provocative statements seen to divert attention from his government’s agenda of economic reforms.

President Obama in his speech referenced his own experience as a minority in America.

“There were moments in my life where I’ve been treated differently because of the colour of my skin…There have been times where my faith has at times been questioned by people who don’t know me, or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing,” he said, noting persistent rumours that he is a Muslim, not a Christian.

“Every person has the right to practice their religion and beliefs and not practice it if they choose so without any persecution,” he added.


US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall event at Siri Fort Auditorium.(Associated Press)

The US President’s 40-minute speech today had more than one Hindi phrase. His audience cheered in delight when he borrowed a Shah Rukh Khan dialogue from the blockbuster film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge – “Senorita…bade bade deshon mein…you know what I mean.”

Mr Obama, the first US president to be chief guest at the Republic Day parade on Monday, described the relationship between India and the US as potentially “one of the defining partnerships of the century”.

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