Washington: Amid the flak generated by President Barack Obama's recent comments about religious intolerance in India, the White House has said it's committed to working with India to reaffirm the principle of diversity around the world.
The reiteration came in an official White House response to an online "We the People Petition on Religious Freedom in India." Urging Obama to "Question Modi 'WHY Indian constitution labels 'Sikhs' as Hindus?' while attending Constitution Day events on January 26."
It also asked Obama to raise the issues of "Sikh Genocide"; and "Sikhs' Right to Self-determination".
The response came after the petition initiated by Sikh For Justice (SFJ), a US based rights group, on Dec 1, 2014 gathered 125,050 signatures. To receive a response a petition must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days.
"During his recent trip to India, the President discussed the importance of religious freedom and tolerance in India on January 27 during his speech at Siri Fort in New Delhi," the White House noted.
President Obama, it said "underscored that India's success depended on the nation not being 'splintered along the lines of religious faith.'"
Obama had also welcomed Prime Minister Narendra "Modi's February 17 condemnation of religious-based violent acts, and his assurance that his government will give equal respect to all religions," the White House said.
The response recalled that Obama in his January 27 speech in New Delhi had said: "In both our countries, in India and in America, our diversity is our strength."
"We are committed to working with India to reaffirm this principle not just within our own countries but around the world," it said.
The petition noted that Sikhism, with over 30 million followers, is the world's 5th largest religion.
"On January 26, 1950 Constitution of India was enforced without the consent of Sikhs who refused to sign it because Explanation II to Article 25(b) of the Constitution labels 'Sikhs' as 'Hindus,'" it suggested.
"January 26, 2015 marks the 65th year of Sikhs' struggle for right to self-determination, for which Sikhs have been subjected to "Genocide" with impunity," the petition said.
It listed these as "June 1984, Military action against Golden Temple;
November 1984, Organized killing of over 30,000 Sikhs; and 1984-98, Extra-judicial killing of over 100,000 Sikhs.
"White House's response to Sikh group's petition is yet another reminder to PM Modi that India's success depends on giving all religious communities freedom and right to profess, practice and propagate their faith without the fear of persecution," SFJ said commending Obama.
"While Obama in his speech in India clearly affirmed the equal status for Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Budhists in America, PM Modi in his February 17 response on religious tolerance failed to address the issue of Article 25(b) which labels 'Sikhs' as 'Hindus', SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said.