Paris | Prime Minister Narendra Modi today assured minorities in India that rights and liberty of citizens of all faiths will be protected and equal place ensured for them, comments that come against the backdrop of anti-minority campaign by Hindutva elements.
In a speech at the UNESCO here, he emphasised his vision of inclusiveness and said cultures, traditions and religions should be used to overcome the rising tide of extremism, violence and divisions across the world. We have built a modern state in an ancient land, with a timeless tradition of openness and co-existence and, a society of extraordinary diversity.
We will defend and protect the rights and liberty of every citizen. We will ensure that every citizen of every faith, culture and creed has an equal place in our society; belief in her future; and the confidence to pursue it, the Prime Minister said. Modi’s assurance assumes significance as there have been apprehensions among minorities following attacks on churches in some places and the ghar vapsi campaign of Sangh Parivar outfits.
The gathering included a large number of NRIs who shouted ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’ and ‘vande mataram’ to which he responded ‘Good, Good’. Observing that the strength of a nation is determined by the joined hands of every citizen and the real progress is measured through empowerment of the weakest, he said, this has been our creed since we assumed office nearly a year ago.
Modi underlined that culture must connect, not divide, our world and that it should be a bridge to greater respect and understanding between people.
The Prime Minister, while outlining the steps taken by his government for the development of the country, said, We shall judge our progress not just by the cold statistics of growth, but by the warm glow of belief and hope on human faces. For me, it means many things.
Invoking the Indian Constitution, he underlined that its foundation rests on a fundamental principle the peace and prosperity of all is indivisible from the welfare of the individual. During his 20-minute speech, Modi, who is here on a four-day visit, referred to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi as also philosopher sage Aurobindo, at whose statue outside the UNESCO building he paid his respects.
There is much that we can learn from his humanism and spiritualism, from his belief in the unity of individual consciousness with the world outside; the enlightened purpose of education; the service of science; and, the unity of world, founded on national freedom, diversity of civilisations and autonomy of culture, Modi said, flanked by UNESCO Director General Irena Bukova.
Noting that the link between habitat and fulfilment of human potential is deep and strong, he said, It is a guiding spirit for the purpose of this institution the defence of peace in the mind of men. The fault lines in our world are shifting from the boundaries of nations into the web of our societies and the streets of our cities.
The threats are changing from domination by states to destruction by groups. We fight today not only over what we claim, but also for who we are. And, in many parts of the world, culture remains a source of conflict. We have access to communication at the click of a mouse. We live in a world of information. Yet, we know that familiarity does not always lead to fraternity; or reduce prejudice, Modi said.
Among those who were present in the audience were Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani, senior Congress leader Karan Singh, who is on the Executive Board of UNESCO, as also Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat, who was mobbed by several NRIs for photographs.
The highest priority for my government is to provide a roof over every head; power in every house; sanitation and clean water within everyone’s reach; a hope for every child to survive; and a chance for every new mother to love her child, Modi said. It also means clean rivers, air that we can breathe and forests filled with the sound of birds. To achieve these goals, we need not just policies and resources, but even more the power of science, he said.
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