NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged firm action against perpetrators of religious attacks and warned against efforts to incite hatred of minorities on Tuesday after a series of attacks on churches.
“I condemn violence against any religion. We will act strongly against such violence,” Modi said at a conference organised by Christian groups in the capital New Delhi.
“My government will not allow any group belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against other communities,” he said.
Modi, who has been heavily criticised for not speaking out earlier against religious violence, said everyone should be free to practice any faith in a country that is officially secular but has a mainly Hindu population.
“My government will ensure complete freedom of faith and the undeniable right to adopt a religion of choice,” said the prime minister.
“Everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence,” Modi added.
Modi’s comments come after attacks on at least five churches in New Delhi since December. US President Barack Obama warned on a visit to New Delhi last month that India’s future success was dependent on its managing to avoid splintering along religious lines.
Modi was for years shunned by Western countries after more than 1,000 people were killed in communal violence in Gujarat when he was the state’s chief minister in 2002. Most of the victims were Muslims.