ASIA/INDIA - India’s Bishops welcome government’s promise to draft a law to protect religious minorities- Link Fides: to origins of Christianity in India

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - The Catholic Bishops of India have welcomed the government’s decision to draft a law to protect religious minorities in India. The spokesman of the Bishops’ Conference Father Babu Joseph, told Fides. The Conference comprises Bishops of the three rites in India Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar. “This is a step in the right direction which brings fresh hope. India’s different religious communities welcome the news which instils new confidence and makes us feel truly members of the Indian nation” Father Babu told Fides.
Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - head of government since May this year when Congress Party won the elections - invited leaders of different religious minorities to a meeting in Delhi and he told them that he was committed to promoting education and economic-social development for minority groups.
For his part, the Minister of Internal Affairs Shivraj Patil explained that the new law - backed also by the President of India Abdul Kalam- will serve to prevent violence between communities of different cultures or religions and punish those who instigate or propagate social disorder or threaten national harmony.
Father Babu told Fides that at the above mentioned meeting “the Prime Minister assured Catholic Church leaders that his government would work to ensure the wellbeing of minority groups ”.
The law announced by New Delhi comes as a response to attacks on religious minorities in India, mostly on Muslim communities for example in Gujarat in 2002. But also on Christian institutions and persons in various states of the Federation.
The groups behind these attacks support the Hindutva ideology which preaches “one people, one language, one culture”, and promotes an all Hindu Indian nation in which there is no place for Indians of other religions. These extremists are backed by Baratiya Janata Party BJP which governed India in the previous legislation. Although it was defeated in recent elections, the BJP has said it does not intend to change its ideology, which in the past encouraged intolerance.
In the meantime last week in Poona diocese Maharashtra state, following a dispute between two men, a Hindu and a Catholic, a Catholic parish was attacked by a crowd of angry Hindus. The militants who staged the attack in which several persons were injured, were members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (Hindu World Council), a group which wants to make India a theocratic state.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 7/7/2004 lines 38 words 386)