Indian envoy refers to Sonia as ‘Christian,’ reference is deleted

For the Congress, the subject of Sonia Gandhi's religion is a touchy one and generally off-limits when it comes to official communications.

Just how sensitive an issue it is was revealed last month when the official representative of the UPA Government in Washington, Ambassador Meera Shankar, delivered a speech at a US university referring to Sonia Gandhi being a Christian as a testament to India's pluralism and diversity. However, that reference was later quickly deleted.

In her keynote speech on the subject "Why India Matters" at Emory University on February 24, Shankar said: "India is a land of incredible diversity. Like the United States it celebrates pluralism. It not only tolerates diversity but has embraced it and has allowed people from all walks of life to flourish and realize their full potential. This is a tradition that is rooted in our civilization. Throughout our history peoples from other parts of the world have come to India and made it a home, resulting in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, one where individual faith and belief is not only respected but adds to the overall sense of nationhood. Today the fact that we have a woman Head of State, a Sikh Head of Government and a Muslim Vice President and a Christian as the leader of the largest national political party is perhaps the best statement of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of our state."

This was probably the first time anyone in the government had referred to the religion of the Congress president and UPA Chairperson.

The speech was posted on the Embassy's website but was quickly pulled out and replaced with a version where the phrase, "...and a Christian as the leader of the largest national political party..." was deleted.

However, an unedited video of the address posted on YouTube yesterday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBWE0Bl3-a0) has the version with the "Christian" reference.

... contd.

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