Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke protocol, personally received the US President Barack Obama at the airport, treated him with utmost respect and embraced him with warmth to strengthen Indo-US relationship that had almost slipped into hibernation in the last few years.
Obama’s three-day visit made headlines as media across the globe obsessively laid its eyes on his movement in the Indian-subcontinent.
On the final day, BO addressed the Indian youth brigade at the Siri Fort in Delhi, where he indirectly asserted on the need to allow religious freedom in India. He said, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation”.
Many in the media believed that Obama hinted at Modi’s image as a Hindu hardliner and wasted no time in taking pot-shots at the Indian PM.
Interestingly, a few days later, a saying senior White House official Phil Reiner stressed, “I don’t believe this was a parting shot by any means. This was simply the President speaking to what makes us great democratic nations.”
The White House may have tried hard to defend Obama’s remark in India, but the President substantiated his stance by discussing “religious intolerance” in India at the National Prayer Breakfast, thereby affirming that his comments at the Siri Fort address weren’t mere “passing shots”.
Obama, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast said, “India is a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs - acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”
However, Sureshbhai Patel and the Chappell Hill Shooting cases have arguably put Obama in the back foot. The 57-year-old Indian from Gujarat was assaulted by an Alabama policeman. Reason – He was out of his house for walk! When stopped by the Police, Patel, who doesn’t know English said, “No English, Indian.”
One of the officials, lifted him, tossed him to the ground, thereby injuring him so critically that he is now lying partially paralysed in a hospital. The Police officer who was guilty of manhandling Patel has been arrested. But the question is – had Obama’s America been so accommodative and tolerant, would such a shaming incident have taken place?
And how can we ignore the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina?
History also won’t forget the brutal killings of Black boys - Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.
Thousands marched in Washington and New York in December last year to demand justice for Black men who have died at the hands of white policemen.
The march underlined the growing anger against the police in the US. It highlighted the trust deficit that many African-Americans feel with respect to law and order in the country.
In such a scenario, Mr President must also practice and not just preach about “tolerance”. Many from his own backyard have often been guilty of racial and religious discrimination. And just as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King too would have been shocked to see America’s “intolerant” side.
Time to introspect BO...