Prime Minister Narendra Modi today defended India’s human rights record, saying for his government, the Constitution is the “real holy book” that provides freedom of faith and speech to all citizens regardless of their background.
“India lives as one; India grows as one and India celebrates as one,” Modi said in his address to a joint meeting of the US Congress at the invitation of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.
“For my government, the Constitution is its real holy book. And, in that holy book, freedom of faith, speech and franchise, and equality of all citizens, regardless of background, are enshrined as fundamental rights,” Modi said in his 45-minute long speech which was also attended by US Vice President Joe Biden.
His remarks came against the backdrop of the Congress-mandated US Commission for International Religious Freedom’s annual report that claimed religious freedom in India was on a “negative trajectory” in 2015 as religious tolerance “deteriorated” and religious freedom violations “increased”.
“800 million of my countrymen may exercise the freedom of franchise once every five years. But, all the 1.25 billion of our citizens have freedom from fear, which they exercise every moment of their lives,” said the Prime Minister.
Delivering his remarks in English, Modi said India and the US may have been shaped by differing histories, cultures, and faiths.
“Yet, our belief in democracy for our nations and liberty for our countrymen is common. The idea that all citizens are created equal may be a central pillar of the American constitution,” he said.
“But, our founding fathers too shared the same belief and sought individual liberty for every citizen of India. There were many who doubted India when, as a newly independent nation, we reposed our faith in democracy. Indeed, wagers were made on our failure. But, the people of India did not waver,” Modi said.
“Our founders created a modern nation with freedom, democracy, and equality as the essence of its soul. And, in doing so, they ensured that we continued to celebrate our age old diversity,” he said.
“Today: across its streets and institutions; in its villages and cities; anchored in equal respect for all faiths; and in the melody of hundreds of its languages and dialects. India lives as one; India grows as one; India celebrates as one,” the Prime Minister said.
Modi said India applauds, the great sacrifices of the men and women from ‘The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’ in service of mankind.
“India knows what this means because our soldiers too have fallen in distant battlefields for the same ideals. That is why the threads of freedom and liberty form a strong bond between our two democracies,” he added.