PM Modi To UK Daily

The PM is expected to run for a third consecutive term in next year’s Lok Sabha election (File).

New Delhi:

There is “no feeling of discrimination towards any religious minority” in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted Thursday in a wide-ranging interview with British publication Financial Times (article might be paywalled). Responding to questions on the future of Muslims in India, he pointed to the country’s “status (as) the world’s fastest-growing economy” and rubbished critics, foreign and domestic, who say anti-Islamic sentiments and hate speech have flourished since he came to power in 2014.

“Indian society itself has no feeling of discrimination towards any religious minority…” the Prime Minister said when asked about the Muslim minority. This was after praising the economic success of the country’s Parsi community, which he described 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 comments were an echo of what he said in June, during his State visit to the United States. Mr Modi then said “… there is no space for any discrimination, caste, creed, religion, or gender, in India…”

In September, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar doubled down on the PM’s statement, declaring at an event in the US, “I defy you to show me discrimination… actually it has become fairer.”

READ | PM Modi Breaks Silence On US’ Sikh Murder Plot Claim

To a question about alleged crackdowns on the government’s critics, the Prime Minister laughed out loud, FT said.

“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 recognise 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 also told FT.

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