ASIA/INDIA - Violence against Christians, "flagrant violation of the Constitution"

Wednesday, 27 October 2021 human rights   persecutions   religious minorities   religious freedom  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - The attacks against the Indian Christian faithful are clear and flagrant violations of the Constitution, and as such must be prosecuted and stopped: this is how priests, religious, promoters of human rights in Indian society expressed themselves in the aftermath of the publication of the Report, by a group of Christian organizations, which in 2021 reports more than 300 episodes of violence against Christians in India. The document, sent to Fides, is drawn up by NGOs such as "United Against Hate", "Association for Protection of Civil Rights" and "United Christian Forum" and others. "What is happening to Christians in India is nothing new. This has been happening with frightening regularity in the States governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for more than 20 years", comments Fr. Cedric Prakash, Jesuit scholar and writer, active in the defense and promotion of human rights.
"However, since 2014 the members linked to the 'Hindutva' ideology (which advocates a Hindu religious nationalism) have carried forward their agenda with violence and hate propaganda against religious minorities, such as Christians and Muslims, enjoying greater impunity", he explains. "Even the most uncompromising Hindu leaders hide behind immunity saying: we are the leaders; no one can touch us, nothing will happen to us", says Father Prakash. "Attacks and threats have increased dramatically. This is totally against the Constitution, the democratic ethos and the pluralistic fabric of the Country. The Indian people must stand up to stop this fanaticism immediately before it is too late", he says.
According to the report entitled "Christians under attack in India", released on October 21, most of the attacks against Christians are reported in three states of northern India such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Delhi.
"The fears and suspicions about Christians converting Hindus are completely unfounded. Brutal attacks took place in 21 states. Most of the incidents occur in the northern states and 288 cases are mass violence.
This is a frightening situation, which raises critical questions about the role of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Ministry of the Interior and the failures to stop this violence", says Catholic leader A.C. Michael, former member of the Commission for Minorities in Delhi and today National Coordinator of the United Christian Forum (UCF). More than 49 complaints were filed in police stations, but no action was taken, the text notes. The investigation carried out shows that most of the violence took place against Christians who belong to the Dalits and tribal communities. The perpetrators of the attacks are Hindu nationalist groups who blame Christians for converting Hindus through flattery, money or other forms of help.
The accusation is totally denied by Christians: as Minakshi Singh, Secretary General of the group "Unity in Christ", a Protestant organization based in Delhi, which contributed to the report, points out, "this is not at all true, in fact there has been no significant change in the percentage of the Christian population, indeed, its number is decreasing", he notes.
Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, Catholic priest, lawyer and defender of human rights, tells Fides: "Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental right. It is the cornerstone of all rights as it involves the conscience. Hindutva groups have accused Christians for over a century of proselytizing without proof and real reasons". Accusing Christians of forcibly converting others to Christianity is pure propaganda and is a pretext for committing violence. Everyone has the right to choose their beliefs. The proof of freedom of religion is the right to convert", the priest told Fides. "In some villages the Christian churches have been devastated, in others the Pastors have been beaten or mistreated. Assemblies of faithful were dispersed by crowds of violent people and Christians ended up in hospital with injuries. The police are also accused of threatening the faithful, of dragging them to police stations and of making raids during Sunday prayer services", the priest said, commenting on the Report.
"It is necessary to bring out the real facts as much as possible, with independent investigations. No one should apologize or be ashamed that he exercises the right to choose his religion or belief. We appreciate that independent groups of civil society, which protect individual freedoms, join this campaign to highlight the problems", concludes Father Singh.
In a recent episode, a group of 30 activists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Council of Hindus) and the Bajrang Dal (Party of the tough and strong) forced a Catholic school in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to put a statue of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, on the campus. Also in the past, Madhya Pradesh, which is governed by the BJP Hindu nationalist party, recorded numerous cases of violence against Christians, priests and nuns.
According to the 2011 Indian census, there are 966 million Hindus out of an Indian population of 1.3 billion. Muslims are 172 million, while Christians reach 29 million in all. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 27/10/2021)