Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and a top RSS functionary on Saturday made a strong case for respecting other faiths, advocating religious tolerance against a backdrop of growing criticism against the Hindu right-wing of forcing its ideology on the country.
Chouhan and RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi’s comments came at the inaugural function of the international ‘dharma-dhamma’ conference in Indore. Dhamma is Pali word used by Buddhists to explain dharma.
“Sanskrit texts say that the whole world is a family. If this is our thinking, then there should be no place for religious conflicts,” Chouhan remarked while addressing the gathering of Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist and Christian scholars from India, southeast Asia, Americas and Europe.
Bhaiyyaji Joshi defined dharma as one which encourages individuals to perform their duties in a manner that protects others’ rights.
Stressing that one should learn to accept and respect other faiths, he said trouble arises when one tries to profess his religion is superior to others. “Problems also arise when there is clash over way of worship and form (idolatry and non-idolatry),” he said.
The comments by the two leaders comes in the midst of rising criticism against the RSS – the ideological mentor of the BJP – and its radical affiliates which are accused of muzzling the voice of free-thinkers and curbing freedom of choice among other faiths.
At least 35 writers from across India have given up their Sahitya Akademi awards since the killing of a Muslim blacksmith in Uttar Pradesh, over rumours of consuming beef, to mark their anger over growing violence against minorities and the killing of rationalist thinkers.
Special guest and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said that religious congregations like Simhastha and Kumbh are not about taking holy dip in rivers but an occasion to make people think how life is to be led.
Bhutan’s foreign minister Lyonopo Damcho Dorji underlined India’s role in establishing world peace and said it can reduce communal conflicts to a considerable extent.
Organised by state cultural department in association with Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies and India Foundation, the state government has promoted the three-day event as a grand assembly of religions which is a prelude to Ujjain’s Simhastha fair to be held next year.