New Delhi, Jan. 27: US President Barack Obama’s Speech at Siri Fort auditorium before he rounded up his three-day India visit today is being viewed by many as a parting shot to the ruling BJP and its saffron-clad leaders who have recently been indulging in the Ghar Vapsi (religious conversion) campaign, as he did not lose the opportunity to give a lecture on the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution and importance of religious freedom.
Former diplomat Kanwal Sibal, participating in a TV discussion this evening even went on to observe that the US President was badly advised. He even termed his remarks (on Indian Constitution and religious freedom) as irresponsible. Another diplomat said we are reading too much into these remarks and if the debate persists, it will not be surprising if the White House comes forward and issues a clarification stating President’s speech is being misread.
Fifty per cent of Mr. Obama’s speech at Siri Fort was devoted to the issue of social inequalities like the position of women, gender bias, and poverty and he especially drew attention to the people’s constitutional right to practice their separate religions. The US President emphasised the “right to freely profess and practice and propagate religion” and went on to observe that freedom of religion is the utmost responsibility of the government but also the responsibility of every person.”
Mr. Obama also went on to point out that “Every person has a right to practice the faith that they choose and to practice no faith at all and to do so free of persecution, fear or discrimination.” He expressed a great deal of optimism stating “our diversity is our strength” and drove home the point by saying ‘Gandhiji” treated different religions as beautiful flowers from the same garden.
Connecting earlier with the people through the “Man ki Baat” interaction through radio, Mr. Obama said we have so much in common..we are two great economies, two diverse societies committed to empowering individuals. People are excited in the US about the enegry Prime Minister Modi is bringing to reduce poverty, empower women, provide electricity and clean energy, and improve the education system.