The Dalai Lama on Saturday said recent elections in Bihar state, which saw voters reject the ruling Hindu nationalist party, showed most Indians believe in “harmony”, in a rare foray into politics in his long-time host country.
Asked about perceptions of rising intolerance in India, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader appeared to point to the bruising defeat suffered by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in assembly elections this month.
“I think Bihar, if I may say so, Bihar elections I think shows the majority of Hindu people still believe (in) harmony,” the Dalai Lama told a press conference at the Lovely Professional University in Punjab, where he was guest of honour at a graduation ceremony.
The Buddhist leader declined to elaborate on his remarks on Bihar, but said he did not believe intolerance was growing in the Hindu-majority nation which has sizeable Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Buddhist minorities.
“I think a few individuals’ political interests or party politics… sometimes it (intolerance) happens but that, I think, is not the real picture of India,” the Dalai Lama said.
“I think India is a living example of all major world religions, traditions living together.”
Dozens of Indian writers and artists have handed back awards in recent weeks protesting against what they say is mounting intolerance under Modi after a spate of violent attacks on secular thinkers and Muslims.
Nearly 200 figures including author Salman Rushdie signed an open letter this week urging British Prime Minister David Cameron to raise “the rising climate of fear” in India with Modi, currently on a visit to Britain.
The ruling BJP suffered a shock poll loss at assembly elections in Bihar, one of India’s biggest and poorest states after a no-holds barred campaign personally fronted by the prime minister, results announced on November 8 showed.