PM defends secular credentials of India (Lead)

September 29th, 2008 - 7:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghMarseilles, Sep 29 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday strongly defended India’s secular credentials when the European Union conveyed its “serious concerns” over “massacres” of Christians in India.“We are a secular state. We are a multi-religious, multi-cultural nation,” Manmohan Singh told reporters, when asked about the attacks on Christian minorities in India.

Manmohan Singh was addressing a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.

“The constitution (of India) guarantees all citizens of India, the right to profess and propagate a religion of their choice,” Manmohan Singh said.

“We stand firm in the defence of secularism which is the foundation of our constitution.”

Attacks on Christians in India escalated after the killing of a Hindu leader in Orissa’s Kandhamal district last month. Suspected Hindu activists ransacked several churches during the last couple of weeks in Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

The prime minister admitted there have been “sporadic attacks” on Christians but underlined he had condemned these incidents as “acts of national shame”.

The central government has sent security forces to state governments to restore order and prevent attacks on Christian minorities, Manmohan Singh said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also the chair of the EU, said he had conveyed the EU’s “serious concerns” over “massacres” of Christians in India.

“We are pleased to reaffirm our friendship with the Indian prime minister. He is a very courageous man,” Sarkozy said.

The French president underlined that the Indian prime minister had already condemned the attacks on Christians in India.

“We were impressed by the clarity with which the prime minister has condemned these attacks,” said Barroso, the president of the EU Commssion.

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