Making a strong pitch for religious tolerance, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday 27 January said every person has the right to practice his faith without any persecution and that India will succeed so long it is not “splintered” on religious lines.

Addressing a Town hall event at the Siri Fort auditorium on the third and final day of his visit to India, Obama also said that America can be India’s “best partner”.

“Every person has the right to practice his faith without any persecution, fear or discrimination. India will succeed so long it is not splintered on religious lines,” Obama told the audience comprising mainly young people.

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The President’s comments came against the backdrop of the controversy over religious conversions and ‘Ghar Wapsi” programmes by right wing Hindu outfits in India. Obama also cited Article 25 of the Indian Constitution dealing with Freedom of religion.

“Your (Constitution) Article 25 says all people are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and have right to freely profess and practise and propagate religion. In both our countries, in all countries upholding with freedom of religion is the utmost responsibility of the government but also the responsibility of every person,” he said.

Obama also said that around the world we have seen intolerance, violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to be standing for upholding their faith “We have to guard against any efforts to divide us on sectarian lines or any other thing,” he said.

Obama further said that no society is immune by the darkest impulses of man and that more often religion has been used to tap into it.

Obama recounted an incident that occurred three years ago in Wisconsin where a man went into a Sikh gurudwara and “in a terrible act of violence” killed six innocent people which included both American and Indians.

“In that moment of shared grief, the two countries reaffirmed the basic truth that we must again today. Every person has a right to practice the faith that they choose and to practice no faith at all and to do so free of persecution, fear or discrimination,” he said.

In his speech, attended by young students, scholars and others, Obama said such a proposition holds much importance in India.

“And nowhere it is more important than in India. Nowhere is it going to be more necessary for that foundational value to be upheld,” he said.