Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets on Sunday, touched upon two "contrasting" memories from the same date: Sept. 11.
He took the occasion to remind people of the pains inflicted by terrorists in the United States through the attacks with hijacked aeroplanes in 2001, and also the message of peace delivered by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago at the Parliament of Religions in 1893, both of which happened on Sept. 11, but were separated by 108 years of time and entirely opposing views of religion, society and ideology.
In the first of these tweets, Modi said: "11th September...two contrasting images come to the mind. Today we pay tributes to all those who lost their lives in gruesome 9/11 attacks. [sic]" He quickly added: "On this day in 1893, Swami Vivekananda delivered his historic speech in Chicago & won many hearts & minds. [sic]"
Modi also attached a link to the addresses the Indian religious leader had delivered at the Parliament of Religions. Legend says his first words — "Sisters and brothers of America" — were immediately met with applause, which continued throughout the duration of his speech.
Modi said in a third tweet: "Swami Vivekananda's speech in Chicago demonstrated the strength of India's rich culture & the power of universal brotherhood and harmony. [sic]"
The 9/11 attacks were a painful time for not only the US but for the whole world, as the bogey of extremist terror reared its ugly head with it. While on one hand it led to stricter vigilance across the world, it also led to cases of Islamophobia and racist attacks on people who were not related in any way to the attacks. Many Sikhs were targeted in these attacks because ignorant people equated them with Muslims due to their beard and turban.
Under these circumstances, Modi invoking Swami Vivekananda's message of peace and harmony could be an interesting diplomatic and political move. How much mileage he manages to get out of it remains to be seen.