Dalai Lama says 99% of Indians are religiously tolerant

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, December 7: Amid the raging debate over religious intolerance in India, Tibetan spiritual head the Dalai Lama today said overall Indians are religiously tolerant, but there are some politicians and some sections of the media who create sensationalism out of "small things".

"Ninety nine per cent of Indians still are religiously tolerant, and it is possible one per cent is intolerant.

I believe that. Some politicians may express different things, but that is their individual expression," the Dalai Lama told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency in an interview in Bengaluru today.

The 80-year-old 14th Dalai Lama has been living in India for the past 56 years since he fled Tibet in 1959 with several hundreds of thousands of his Tibetan followers .

"Some people in the media too create sensationalism out of small things," he said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader said a lot of problems are highlighted in newspapers but they are not that serious.

"In India I feel, when we look at the newspapers, there are a lot of problems, but besides that nothing serious. Newspapers in totalitarian regimes are smooth, but underneath a lot of problems (in such countries)," he said.

Asked about criticism that writers did nothing like returning awards during the Emergency of 1977 imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in the wake of her assassination by two of her Sikh security guards, the Dalai Lama said US President Barack Obama had mentioned Modi as a straightforward and a visionary leader. Modi’s visits to different countries have improved India’s global image, and the country is on the path of becoming an economic power.

The Dalai Lama said he doesn’t not know the details about Modi’s alleged "connection" with the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002 (when he was that state’s chief minister), but these issues crop up during elections.

"When he (Modi) was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, a Muslim friend said he may have some doubt about Modi’s connection with post-Godhra violence. I don’t know ... During elections we see more criticism of such kind," he said.

"This kind of criticism is also witnessed in Tibetan communities during elections and whenever a political matter crops up," he added.

However, this sort of criticism is better than the totalitarian regimes of China and North Korea, where there is no sort of freedom of expression for different views, he said.

Asked if it was fair for writers to return their awards on the issue of "intolerance", the Dalai Lama said: "I do not know the details, but there are some individuals. They have some reasons for resentment. They also enjoy freedom. Whether that is right or wrong, we have to study very very carefully."

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