Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The governments of India, Pakistan and more generally Asia should heed the Pope’s words on religious freedom, this according to Dr Ram Puniyani, a former professor of biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Powai, Mumbai. A major voice for secular India, he gave AsiaNews an exclusive interview, expressing his views on Benedict XVI’s Monday speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican (see “Pope: Religious freedom attacked by terrorism and marginalisation,” in AsiaNews, 10 January 2011)
“The speech of His Holiness the Pope to the diplomatic corps has to be seen in the context of growing religious intolerance in many countries. In Pakistan, Asia Bibi was given the death sentence. In India, there has been sustained anti-Christian violence in different parts of the country. India has seen this intimidating anti-Christian violence led by Hindutva politicians in Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In Orissa we saw the ghastly burning of pastor Graham Staines and then the violence in Kandhamal resulting in the death of nearly 400 Christians.”
“These events are a threat to the right of minorities to practice and preach their religion in these countries. One hopes that the statement of Pope will make the governments in these countries become more sensitive to the religious rights of minorities,” Dr Puniyani said.
Puniyani is the author of three books on such topics: Fascism of Sangh Parivar, The Other Cheek and Communal Politics: an illustrated primer.
For years, he has juggled teaching and social work. Then came 6 December 1992.
“That night something snapped inside me. It was as if the destruction of the Babri Masjid (Ayodhya mosque) had sounded the death-knell of our democratic society," said Puniyani, who is listed on hinduunity.org, a Sangh Parivar website, as one the ‘Enemies of the Hindu Nation’.