Not just Muslims, India is also failing its Christian minority

On the bare floor of a police lock-up in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, 32 priests and seminarians were forced to sit through a winter night last month, like criminals. They were detained after a Bajrang Dal mob attacked them, apparently for singing Christmas carols, burnt their car and thrashed them even at the police station. After their sleepless night, the police arrested one of the priests, charging him with “forced conversions”. The attackers were barely touched, in what has become the norm in such hate crimes. Around the same time, the Hindu Jagran Manch threatened the managements of Christian schools in Aligarh that if they celebrated Christmas with their students, they would do so at their “own risk”. Similar threats have been reported from other towns in Uttar Pradesh. Like many Indians, my family has always celebrated Christmas for its message of cheer, goodwill and compassion with mistletoe and plum cake. But in these troubled times, even wishing Merry Christmas has become an intimation of protest. In a fast-mutating India where hatred and fear are being rapidly normalised, even singing carols and celebrating Christmas have become high-risk undertakings. So in December, I attended Christmas Mass as a token of both protest and solidarity. India is becoming increasingly unsafe for its Muslim and Christian minorities. The World Watch List 2017 ranked India as the 15th most dangerous place to practise one’s minority faith, a sharp fall from the 31st place four years earlier. Muslims are facing vigilante attacks and targeted killings by the police. The even smaller Christian minority is enduring attacks on its places of worship, shrines, prayer services, priests and nuns. The United Christian Forum has recorded 216 such attacks in 2017, but the police have registered complaints in less than a quarter of the cases; the attackers have been arrested in even fewer. The four states of Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh account for over half of these cases. There have also been reports of social and economic boycott of Christian communities, and of them being denied work and access to water and electricity. The Bharatiya Janata Party and other affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in India and around the world, have long propagated the noxious canard of a powerful foreign-funded evangelist campaign to convert low caste and impoverished Hindus and Adivasis to Christianity. This is used to manufacture popular resentment, even hatred, against this small, peaceable and progressive community, which erupts in hate attacks on missionaries, priests, nuns and shrines. By way of example, here is an extract from a pamphlet published by the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation in Texas, US, in 2015: “In India, not only Christians celebrate, but many Hindus also participate or celebrate the Christmas without knowing what Christianity is all about, what the Christians think about Hindus, what the Bible says about the ‘idol worship’, how they destroyed so many civilizations, how they are converting Hindus and making them enemies of their own religion, how the money is flowing from foreign countries, how the Hindus were mercilessly tortured in Goa…They believe that Jesus gave them the right to deceive, convert, subjugate, conquer, and proselytize any nation or religion, by any and all possible means. They are entitled to such methods as allurement, fraud, coercion and violence in converting but they criticize Hindus even if they to talk about their atrocities of conversion…This is more evident in Southern States and especially in the Andhra Pradesh are. They convert the Hindus and make them their foot soldiers to destroy Hindu deities, step on them, and also tear up the pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. According to unofficial statistics, as many as 30 percent of Hindus in villages have got converted…” Cultivating hatred Hate propaganda, of course, has nothing to do with facts. India’s Christian population has not risen beyond 2.5% in the past several decades. How could this be the case if there was a concerted evangelist campaign to convert Hindus? It is instructive that Christians constitute such a tiny minority despite the fact that Christianity came to India nearly a thousand years before it spread in Europe and the country lived through two hundred years of British colonial rule. In the words of the senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, the “entire conversion debate is dominated by the Hindu right whose political agenda is: (a) to declare the country and Indian civilisation as primarily, if not solely, a Hindu civilisation, (b) to insist that all past conversions over the centuries were induced by fear, fraud and opportunism, (c) to regard all past conversion as essentially suspect and (d) to pursue an intimidating policy to try and ensure that future conversions from Hinduism should not take place, and in any event, be minimised”. Dhavan argues that the controversy over conversion is inextricably linked to the rise of political Hindutva, which he describes as “belligerent, apprehensive, uncompromising and vicious in its attitude…with plans, policies and programmes to attack and discipline all other faiths”. He cites the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his young children, and the intimidation and killings of Christians and Muslims as part of the “policy of disciplining other faiths”, which includes “both a programme to impose fear on others as well as a legal policy to intimidate non-Hindu minorities through the processes of the law”. In the bitter discussions about religious conversion, […]




Source: TopStory- Matters India

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