PM lists faith of Indians his govt rescued

Modi addresses a rally in Surendranagar on Sunday. (PTI)

Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday credited " rashtra bhakti" (nationalism) for his government's help to Indians of diverse faiths, while describing as a "fatwa" a letter by an archbishop that appeared critical of "nationalist forces".

Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar had issued the letter last month appealing to Christians to pray to save the country from "nationalist forces" and ensure the election of people "who would remain faithful to our Indian Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination".

"I was shocked to see a religious person releasing a fatwa (edict) saying, 'Uproot the nationalist forces'. It is rashtra bhakti that guides us to help every Indian in any part of the world," the Prime Minister said.

The archbishop had also said that the country's "democratic fabric" was at stake amid a growing "sense of insecurity" among the minorities, a comment seen as implied criticism of the government.

Modi said his government had rescued people of different faiths from terrorists, citing several examples of Christian missionaries and nurses being brought home from foreign conflict zones.

"Along with Indians, we rescued citizens of almost 40 countries from (war-torn) Yemen. We did not ask their religion or what language they spoke," he said. "It was our nationalism and humanitarian values that guided us."

"Our nurses from Kerala, mostly Christians, were stranded in Iraq in the custody of terrorists. Can the Prime Minister or any citizen of India sleep in such a situation?" he asked.

Some 46 Indian nurses, held by the Islamic State in Iraq for about a month, were evacuated in 2014 at New Delhi's intervention.

Modi recalled how his government had rescued Keralite priest Tom Uzhunnalil from 18 months' Islamic State captivity in Yemen, and Father Alexis Prem Kumar from the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"Father Tom, also a Keralite, was abducted by terrorists in Yemen last year. He had gone there to spread the message of Jesus Christ. We employed all our resources to bring him back as he is the son of this country," the Prime Minister said.

"Another Christian, Judith D'Souza of West Bengal, was kidnapped in Afghanistan. We applied every trick in the book and brought her back alive from the clutches of terrorists. We were able to do all this humanitarian work because of our rashtra bhakti," he said.

Jab at Congress

At Gujarat election rallies, Modi accused the Congress of seeking to divide society along caste and religion. He referred to Rahul Gandhi's impending elevation as Congress president to allege the party had a history of rigging internal polls. 


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