09/30/2014, 00.00
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Bishop of Pune calls for an end to Hindu-Muslim violence, stresses "we are all Indians"

by Nirmala Carvalho
In Vadodara, police arrest 140 people following sectarian clashes sparked by anti-Islamic pictured posted on Facebook. Gujarat has a dismal record when it comes to sectarian violence. For the bishop of Pune, all religions have contributed to nation-building.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Police in Vadodara (Gujarat) arrested 140 people who took part in clashes between Hindus and Muslims over the weekend triggered by an anti-Islamic image posted on Facebook. During the unrest, two men were stabbed and more than a dozen injured.

Local authorities deployed police to stop the rioting, calling on religious leaders in both communities to intervene to calm people down. As a precautionary measure, internet and phone were blocked.

Violence in Vadodara broke out at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a state visit to the United States. For nearly ten years, Modi was persona non grata after Washington revoked his visa in 2005 when he was still chief minister of Gujarat. This was motivated by charges that he had contributed to the 2002 sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims that left at least a thousand dead, mostly Muslim.

Modi heads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party close to the country's more radical groups like the RSS, which has tended to be openly violent towards minorities and is pushing for a Hindu-only state.

For this reason, recent comments made by the prime minister about Indian Muslims have come as a surprise. In reaction to a statement by al-Zawahiri, Modi told CNN that al Qaeda is "doing injustice towards the Muslims of our country. If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India - they will not want anything bad for India".

"As a citizen of India, I welcome these statements," Mgr Thomas Dabre, bishop of Pune, told AsiaNews. "Our country is not built on any particular religious community, nor on any particular belief. Obviously, I recognise the enormous contribution Hindus have made to nation-building, for which I am deeply grateful. However, India was built by people of other religions as well: the Taj Mahal by Muslim, social reforms about equality and human dignity by Christians, outstanding national service Sikhs and Parsees, sculptures by Buddhist".

All this "should be highlighted at a time of religious intolerance and terrorism," he explained. "Only when all Indians, in particular politicians and certain radical groups, explicitly recognise the patriotism of people of all religions, India will be able to live in true peace and harmony, and protect its unity and integrity."

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