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I am secular : Advani

india Updated: Sep 29, 2008 18:59 IST

Seen as the face of hardline Hindutva, senior BJP leader L K Advani on Monday said he was "very much a secular man" and his party stood for peaceful co-existence of all religious groups.

"I studied in a Christian missionary school and I am very much a secular man,"a BJP spokesperson quoted Advani as saying during a close-door meeting he had with religious leaders in Shillong.

Representatives from Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and tribal organizations participated in the meet that was aimed at clarifying the saffron party's stand on the attacks on Christians, churches and prayer halls in Orissa and Karnataka.

Quoting the BJP leader, BJP MP, Kiren Rijiju told PTI that "religious sentiment should not precede national interest. India is a secular country and no section of the society should be neglected.

"In Orissa, untouchability among the Hindus and a simmering discontent among the lower strata have drawn people to other religions. Social acceptance is a big dilemma there," the BJP leader said.

Chief Minister Donkupar Roy and other Christian leaders expressed anguish over the attacks on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka.

As the church leaders expressed doubts over the governance of BJP, Advani assured that he had asked the chief ministers of Orissa and Karnataka to institute judicial probes into the incidents and bring the culprits to book.