Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated Thursday in a wide-ranging interview with the British journal Financial Times that there is “no feeling of discrimination towards any religious minority” in India. In response to queries about the future of Muslims in India, he emphasized the country’s “status (as) the world’s fastest-growing economy” and dismissed international and local opponents who claim anti-Islamic attitudes and hate speech have risen since he took office in 2014.
When asked about the Muslim minority, the Prime Minister stated, “Indian society itself has no feeling of discrimination towards any religious minority…” This came after he praised the country’s Parsi population, which he termed as a “religious micro-minority residing in India.”
“Despite facing persecution elsewhere in the world, they (Parsis) found a safe haven in India, living happily and prospering,” he told FT, which noted that he made no direct reference to the country’s roughly 200 million Muslims.
The remarks echoed what he stated on his State visit to the United States in June. Mr. Modi went on to say “… there is no space for any discrimination, caste, creed, religion, or gender, in India…”
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar doubled down on the Prime Minister’s comments in September, claiming at a US event, “I defy you to show me discrimination… actually it has become fairer.”
The Prime Minister laughed out loud when asked about suspected crackdowns on government critics, according to the Financial Times.
“There is a whole ecosystem that is using the freedom available in our country to hurl these allegations at us every day, through editorials, TV channels, social media, videos, tweets, etc…” Mr Modi said, in an apparent reference to BJP ministers’ “toolkit” and “tukde tukde” jibes about the opposition.
“They have the right to do so. But others have an equal right to respond with facts.”
Speaking to FT from his official residence in Delhi’s Lok Kalyan Marg, and against the backdrop of the BJP’s dominant showing in the Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh elections, Mr Modi also dismissed criticism his government is dismantling long-standing secular and democratic traditions.
“It’s important to recognize India would not have achieved the status of the world’s fastest-growing economy if the issues you’ve highlighted were as pervasive as suggested,” he responded.
“Our critics are entitled to their opinions and the freedom to express them. However, there is a fundamental issue with such allegations, which often appear as criticisms,” he said about concerns over the health of Indian democracy. “These claims not only insult the intelligence of the Indian people but also underestimate their deep commitment to values like diversity and democracy.”
“Any talk of amending the constitution is meaningless,” the PM said to the Financial Times.
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