NHRC chairperson Justice (retd) Arun Kumar Mishra Thursday said 'Sarva Dharma Sambhav' or all religions are the same has been the ethos of India, and that the hegemony of one religion "has never been part of our culture, it never was and will never be".
In his address at the opening of a conference here on 'Human Rights in Indian Culture and Philosophy', he said there is a need to implement again the syncretic tradition of Akbar's 'Din-i-Ilahi'.
He said forcible religious conversion is "against humanity" and was never accepted by India's civilisation.
Extolling the virtues of Indian culture, he said, all religions speak of peace and non-violence. "Peaceful co-existence is our culture, our dharma. If our blood is not different, how can there be any difference between religions, Gods."
His comments come in the backdrop of the brutal daylight killing of a tailor in Udaipur by two men who had posted videos online that claimed they were avenging an insult to Islam.
"It is time to think about the oneness of Gods, all religions have one goal. Today, don't know for what reasons or interests, attempts are being made to create a divide. There is a need to implement again the syncretic tradition of (Akbar's) 'Din-i-Ilahi'," he said.
To underline the religious harmony of the country, he cited instances wherein shrines of different religions are located at the same site and followers of different religions worship there.
"Sarva Dharma Sambhav is the ethos of India. The hegemony of one religion has never been part of our culture, it never was and will never be," he said.
Even in Islam, there are socialist principles, and with the 'Din-i-Ilahi' (Mughal emperor) Akbar sought the commonality among the different religions, Justice (retd) Mishra said.
All religions preach non-violence. In Islam too, non-violence is a an integral component, he said.
In the Ramayana, there is a "beautiful description" of human rights, he said, adding there has been a tradition in India of sheltering refugees from various countries.
In his address, he also said India is ahead today in the field of environment conservation. He quoted from various Shastras and the Manu Smriti among other texts on ways of governance.
He said what is in consonance with the 'Dharma' is in consonance with human values.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah was slated to officially inaugurate the two-day national conference but due to some urgency he could not attend the event.
Union minister R K Singh, who was the chief guest at the event held at the Vigyan Bhawan, said that human rights is "embedded in our DNA, and not given to us as a concept from outside".
"Also, I see the home ministry as the custodian of the rights of the people, and that is what I feel has to be perspective of the home department," he added.
Singh also quoted from ancient texts to emphasise the wisdom and ethos that India has drawn from since time immemorial.
"In Hinduism, 'dharma' doesn't mean religion, but it is a way of life, a culture that respects the lives of all human beings. We are inheritors of that culture in which a common man could ask a question the conduct of an emperor, Lord Ram. So, human rights is something that is inborn in us," he said.
He enumerated the achievements of the Narendra Modi government in building houses for poor and others, providing water and cooking gas connections to households and health insurance to the needy, saying, this was as "extension of the basic human rights" that one accords to citizens.
The Union minister also said peaceful co-existence and 'ahimsa' have been the ethos of India.
Earlier in the day, the NHRC chief addressed a technical session as part of the conference, where he said 'ahimsa' (non-violence) via Buddhism is a "gift from India" to the wider world.
The two-day event is being hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
The NHRC chief cited Mahatma Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Dayanand Saraswati, and added “we have to remember Akbar also" in this context.
"Gandhi, Patel lived with 'ahimsa', it is taught in Jainism and Buddhism too. Forty-seven countries have adopted Buddhism, it is a gift from India -- 'ahimsa'. What Ashoka borrowed from Buddhism - 'ahimsa'... What we have given to the entire world is being talked about today... Indian culture, we have not forgotten, it is in our blood," he said.
He then spoke of 'adhikar' (rights) and 'dayitva' (duties) as spoken in the Indian texts.
"'Adhikar' is peaceful co-existence. No one has any right to kill anybody or snatch someone else's bread to satiate their hunger or quench their thirst," the NHRC chief said.
He also talked about the land being a venerated 'Bhoomi Devi' (Mother Earth) and River Ganga being revered as a 'Ganga Maa' and lamented that society was "forgetting its obligations" there too.
The NHRC chief underlined that fertile nature of land was "being destroyed" through use of chemicals and fertilizers as they benefit just a few crops and render it "unproductive" later.
India is an agriculture-dominated country and the land gives breads to millions, he said.
(With PTI inputs)