One of the outstanding questions after Narendra Modi’s election in India earlier this year was how inter-faith frictions would be handled in India’s sprawling patchwork society. A hopeful sign ahead of Christmas, via Reuters:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned his lawmakers for the first time to stop promoting controversial issues such as religious conversions and to focus on economic reforms as he struggles to pass legislation needed to kickstart the economy.The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right wing Hindu group, called off a plan to convert thousands of Muslims to Hinduism this Christmas, which had threatened to stir fresh religious discord, after Modi’s intervention.
Christianity Today has an article explaining how the warning comes a few weeks after Christian leaders in Nagaland (a state with a large number of Christians) petitioned the Prime Minister for additional protections for religious minorities from the depredations of radical groups like the RSS. The article goes on to explain how groups like the RSS wield economic incentives to “re-convert” Muslims and Christians to Hinduism:
In the case of former Christians in Asroi, the Hindu radicals first warned them that they will lose government benefits designed to help poor people due to their religious identity. Next, they frighten these Christians with social expulsion from mainstream society if they remain as Christians. In order to ensure they didn’t violate India’s anti-forced conversion laws, the radicals likely told these reconverted Christians what to say in case their conversions were ever questioned.
None of this tells us whether Narendra Modi is a committed pluralist or not, but it’s almost besides the point to worry about what is truly in his heart right now. His priorities seem to be reform and economic development, and he seems determined to not let the religious politics of the more radical elements of his coalition derail this. And given both the scope of India’s problems and the size of Modi’s ambitions, is good enough news for now.