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Christian Persecution in India 2012 ReportSalem-News.com
Problems have escalated.
(NEW DELHI ICAN) - Marshaling evidence of communal attacks on minorities, particularly the Christians, secular activists gave a clarion call to the Union Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde to take up the Maharashtra home ministry’s proposal to ban the Sanathan Sanstha and Abhinav Bharat, as soon as possible. A report on Christian Persecution in India – 2012 was released by Justice Michael Saldanha, former judge in the Bombay and Karnataka High Courts, who said there were almost one attack a day on the community.
Dr. Ram Puniyani of the All India Secular Forum gave the history of various right wing affiliates of the RSS and gave concrete instances of their involvement in the anti-national and communal violence, with the aim to usher in what they call a Hindu nation. According to Joseph Dias, general secretary of The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), “ we have mentioned the top 250 cases of persecution, which ranges right from Christians who convert being forced to drink cow’s urine to rape and murder of Christian clergy and dalit minors”.
The secular activists made the following recommendations:
1. Union Ministry Must Ban Sanathan Sanstha & Abhinav Bharat
Joseph Dias gave the status of cases in Odisha documented by Fr. Dibya for an indication of justice denied:
Complaint lodged : 3232
For brief highlights of the press conference held on 1st February 2012 refer to the index of the report.
Some Attacks in Maharashtra
Pune, December 2012: An ex-corporator published a calendar which featured pictures of a smoking and drinking Jesus, which had earlier been used by other fundamentalists. He apologized and the union minister, Milind Deora has been approached to take the pictures off the internet.
Malwan, 2 December 2012: Sunday worship was attacked by a mob of over 200 Hindu fundamentalists and the believers who had gathered for the prayer meeting in the evening, were forcibly confined to the house of Pastor Mathias for almost four hours. The Hindu radicals locked the door, surrounded the bungalow and hurled filthy abuses at them.
Malwan, 26 October 2012: Hindutva fundamentalists grouped under the banner of Hindu Dharma Jagaran Samiti attacked a prayer meeting and 11 Christians were arrested on false charges of conversion. The attackers who were released on bail were even publicly felicitated by the Hindutva villagers and encouraged to continue attacking the Christians. A social boycott was out in place with the believers being told that the villagers would refuse to buy or sell fish and have dealings with the Christian converts.
Mumbai, 13 October 2012: Thousands of Christians protested lack of a cemetry affecting five lakh Christians who live on the eastern side of the western suburbs, from Khar to Dahisar. The June 21 Mantralaya fire destroyed the documents sanctioning their request for a cemetery were destroyed delays the release of land for a burial ground. The community has requested the expedition of the demarcated burial plot in Goregaon.
Mumbai, October 12, 2012: It’s now the Angelus bells that chime at Victoria Church that is reportedly disturbing the sensibilities of a resident, Suhas Awchat of Goa Portuguesa Bar & Restaurant, who allegedly complained to the local police station. Community groups were quick to react on receiving complaints from local residents, who missed the Angelus chimes. They met the police officials and obtained an assurance from them that the Angelus chimes would be allowed. The chimes play a 30 second hymn to call people for the prayers in the morning and evening. Church members said the bells are as old as the church, which celebrated its 150th jubilee.
Pune, 11 June, 2012: Political groups have threatened protest in front of Bishop’s School and the principal sought police’s help during admissions. “We have been repeatedly receiving threats of protests, strikes and break-ins into the school,” said Frank Freese, the school principal.
Thane Rural, July 16, 2012: A mob disrupted a prayer meeting at the house of a tribal Christian in Thavalpada village. More than 50 Christian tribals had assembled at Madhukar Salve’s house in village and were singing hymns when the mob assaulted them. Salve has been holding prayer sessions every Sunday for the past two years. Additional Superintendent of Police, Thane Rural, Sangramsinh Nishandar confirmed the incident but said no arrests have been made yet.
Mumbai, The BMC has asked the Our Lady of Assumption church in Kandivli to surrender 0.5 mt to 4 mt of land. The decision to acquire the area of a 150-year-old church is for the Poisar river-widening project, which Catholics point out is discriminatory. A co-operative society on the opposite side of the river was exempt allegedly because it housed a corporator from the BJP party.
Thane Rural, 30 December 2012: In Tamsai village, extremists attacked Christians because they refused to honor a deity which resulted in many Christians fleeing their homes. The Sunday worship was stopped and believers from the neighbouring villages were stopped from congregating. They were also threatened with social boycott, besides being denied water and firewood.
Thane Rural, 7 January, 2013: Christians agree to the demand not to have outsiders come for Sunday Worship and tribals agree to allow Christians to pray . However in Tamsai village, women attacked Christian tribals under the pretext of playing Christian music on the mobile. The police were compelled to file an FIR against 8 adivasi women.
CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION IN INDIA - THE CSF 2012 REPORT
Anti-Christian Violence & Persecution 2012
The CSF Retrospective Credits
The inferences & The CSF documentation highlighted in this report, relies on hundreds of reports & persecution updates that have come in daily from Independent Media & Tribunals, Christian NGOs and Churches, Victims & Activists, Government Records & Police Complaints, Internet, The CSF correspondents in the states etc.
The commendable work of at least a few community advocacy groups – All India Christian Council, Evangelical Fellowship of Indian, Global Council of Indian Christians, Prashanti, etc. and especially the individuals actively steering the work in these NGOs – is also greatly acknowledged
Top 250 Incidents
Karnataka - (67)
Karnataka persecution is widespread and saturated. Orissa is next with maximum killings and rapes, even minors, even though the recorded incidents are lesser than the top 3 states – Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
New states entering the Top 20 list include Tamil Nadu, Assam, Mizoram and Goa. Maharashtra is poised to be the next Hindutva laboratory and remains at No. 7 in the list. Persecution from Islamic fundamentalists is being noticed from states like J & K, Kerala and West Bengal.
KARNATAKA GROUND REALITIES – BY JUSTICE MICHAEL SALDANHA
Maharashtra: A decade of heightened Hindutva
By Dr. Prof. Ram Puniyani
Recently, the union home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde (incidentally) was hauled for his Hindutva terror remarks based on investigations done Anti Terror Squads (ATS) of different states and by National Investigation Agency (NIA). The former union home minister P. Chidambaram too, in July 2010, announced in Parliament that the NIA will probe the terrorist attacks on the Samjhauta Express and examine the links of the accused in other terror attacks, including in Malegaon - September 8, 2006.
1. In 2003, in Parbani, Jalna and Jalgaon districts of Maharashtra which heralded a decade of increasing Hindutva violence in and around Maharashtra, especially Madhya Pradesh and Goa.
2. On 6th April 2006 two Bajrang Dal workers died when making the bombs in Nanded. The place where they died belonged to the RSS worker and saffron flag was hoisted atop the hose. There was also a board of Bajrang Dal (Nanded Branch) on the wall of the house.
3. On September 8, 2006 took place bomb blasts in Malegaon and Modasa, with it being reported that the accused had links with Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad again.
4 On 4th June 2008, two Hindu Jagran Samiti workers were arrested for planting the bombs in the basement of Gadkari Rangayatan (theatre) in Thane due to which 7 people got injured. It was reported that the same group was involved in the blasts in Vashi and Panvel also.
5, In Goa a bomb kept in a scooter went off on the eve of Divali (17th Oct 2009) in Margao. It killed Malgonda Patil and seriously injured Yogesh Naik. Another bomb was detected in Sancoale in a truck carrying 40 youth for Narkasur competition. Both the activists belonged to Sanatan Sanstha.
While in the initial phase police authorities working under the prejudice that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’ misdirected their probe, the probe came back on the proper track after the Malegaon blasts when the motor cycle of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, the former activist of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a wing of RSS, came under the scanner and her links with many of those who have been named came to the surface.
These facts came to light due to the initiative and of the then chief of Maharashtra ATS, Hemant Karkare. Karkare pursued the investigation professionally putting together the threads due to which today most of them are in jails. Karkare came under immense pressure from Hindutva politicians. Narendra Modi said that Hemant Karkare was an anti National - Deshdrohi. Later Karkare got killed in the Mumbai terror attack of 26/11, 2006.
Swami Aseemanand is reported to have confessed in front of the magistrate that the major reason for this whole planning as per him was to counter the Islamic terrorism as witnessed in Sankat Mochan temple etc. and second goal of theirs’ was to pave the path of Hindu nation.
Home Minister must intervene on Press Freedom & Secure Journalists Release
The Union Home Minister should secure the release of two Karnataka journalists, currently in jail, months after their arrest - Naveen Soorinje, the reporter of Kasturi News Channel and Sharan of Sahaya TV falsely arrested by the state police.
The cases against them need to be immediately withdrawn, with the chief minister needing to constitute a judicial inquiry and suspend the police officials found guilty. It is clear that the government is shielding the police biased in favour of the Hindutva forces and against minorities. The defense of press is vital for the functioning of India as a democracy, as only the media fearlessly exposed the establishment of the day.
Its been two months that Naveen Soorinje is in jail for highlighting the role of Hindu fundamentalists in the Homestay moral policing case. We also have reports that the media, particularly in Mangalore and the coastal districts, like Dakshin Kannada are threatened by not just police, but extra-constitutional communal hoodlums. The arrest of the two journalists is simply to send a signal to the media fraternity that freedom of press will not be allowed and any anti-Hindutva reporting will have undesirable consequences. If such is the treatment meted out to the journalists, what more can be expected for the common man, especially minorities in the state.
It appears that sections of the judiciary also would be open to allegations of saffronisation or could have been misled by the administration, as some rulings would be misread. Even the denial of bail and charging the journalists on same charges as the culprits needs to be contested. In case of the journalists, the government is solely to be blamed not only for the false charges, but also for not intervening despite months of harassment. It has also given the BJP and Hindutva fringe groups a free hand to run riot riot, resulting in attacks on the minorities. In the background of the attacks on minorities and now, journalists, Karnataka is an ideal case for the President of India to use Article 355 / 356 against the state government. However, given the fact that elections are due soon, he may not do it.
There are several loopholes in the cases against the two journalist, as follows:
1. The judge in the case was presented a case with false allegations against the journalists.
The journalists, Soorinje and Sharan needed to be felicitated for video recording how activists of Hindu Jagarana Vedike assaulted young men and women while they were celebrating a birthday at a homestay in Mangalore in July last year. If not for them, the real culprits of the attack would have escaped; rather the BJP government was now not only attempting a cover-up operation and also preventing further anti-government or negative Hindutva coverage.
Maharashtra – The Next Hindutva Laboratory?
The Konkan & Thane Rural belt – Hotbed of Hindutva Terror
Palghar and Thane Rural region sees attacks on Christian adivasis
The CSF has urged the chief minister and home minister of Maharashtra to ensure that Christians in communally sensitive areas are protected. According to Joseph Dias, the CSF general secretary, who undertook a fact-finding tour of the state's coastal belt, Hindutva fundamentalists are hyper active in the area, threatening Christians from attending prayer meetings. His visit came in the wake of the most recent attack on over 600 believers in the Sawantwadi Municipal Hall on 11th January, 2013 prayer meeting. The CSF suspects fundamentalists active in the Sanathan Sanstha and anti-minority political parties or forces.
The Christians in the entire coastal belt live in fear and are not able to practice their religion freely due to eminent possibility of renewed attacks. In Goa a bomb kept in a scooter went off on the eve of Divali (17th Oct 2009) in Margao. It killed Malgonda Patil and seriously injured Yogesh Naik. Another bomb was detected in Sancoale in a truck carrying 40 youth for Narkasur competition. In both instances the hoodlums reportedly belonged to Sanatan Sanstha, whose hand is suspected in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district too. The aim of the blast was to create communal tension in Margao, which has a history of communal violence. This group takes inspiration from Savarkar (Hindu Mahasabha) and Hedgewar (RSS) and indoctrinates its members into hating Christians and Muslims.
Joseph Dias in his report on Sindhudurg & Thane Rural districts observes:
1. In the Malvan attack even a 8.5 month pregnant woman, was hauled by the police and she gave birth 15 days later. A man suffering from diabetes was not spared and he died weeks later.
2. The police in Sawantwadi clearly appeared to side with the fundamentalists and threatened cross cases, if Christians did not settle with the attackers of the prayer meeting and who were not interested in any dialogue.
3. The communal groups like Sanathan Sanstha and fundamentalist politicians are suspected to be behind the attacks - instigating and carrying out the pre-planned attacks, through their foot-soldiers in the Sindhudurg region.
4. The media is tipped of the attacks and carry one-sided false reports, flaming communal passions and turning the majority against the Christians, with their coverage. The police can easily identify and act against the culprits, but don't.
5. Any prayer meeting in the district needs police permission and restrictions are placed on venues being rented out for prayer meetings. Police no objection is asked for to pray and Christians are finding it difficult to rent out venues for meetings.
6. The areas around Malvan and Sawantwadi that are sensitive, include - Oras, Kudal, Banda, Kankavli, Pinguli, etc. and police need to be vigilant, with the Collector instructed to act immediately against communal forces and protect life and property of Christian victims, rather than threatening the community members.
7. The district has not had a history of communal violence and with a view to consolidate the Hindu vote, politicians and communal organizations are targeting minorities, especially the Christians who are a soft target. Inspite of The CSF cautioning the authorities in the aftermath of the Malvan and Palghar attacks, little attention is being paid by the police.
Orissa: No provision for Kandhamal gang rape victims and even murder
It is shameful that heinous crimes including gang rapes and murder of young Dalit girls in Kandhamal is excluded from the discourse on rape in our country, says Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch. A fact-finding team comprising The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights with allied organizations like NAWO, Odisha Forum for Social Action and others visited five villages ( Tiangia, Simanbadi, Daringbadi, Badagaon, Sarangoda and Tikabali ) in Kandhamal district. In each village, the team has met the rape survivor, the family, community members and the investigating police officers at the police station. Finally, the fact-finding team has met the District Collector in Kandhamal and shared the findings and recommendations.
The members of the team express their shock and anguish over the gruesome cases of rape and murder of Dalit Christian girls in the recent months at Kandhamal and at the same time are angered with the fact that these cases never figure in the recent discussions on sexual violence and rape in India. Dalit girls living in remote tribal areas of India with little access to livelihood and life are battered brutally and killed, and yet this is not enough for the Orissa Government to hang its head in shame.
In Kandhamal, if at all given, a rape case is given Rs. 5000 and rape and murder is given Rs. 10,000 as compensation. The discussion with the District Collector in Kandhamal has revealed that the district administration has no money for rehabilitation of rape survivors and their families. He said, “I have no money for the compensation and rehabilitation of minority (Dalit Christian) girl survivors of rape.”
Delays in investigation, serious lapse in role of police, zero support from district administration and total break down of statutory bodies is clearly visible in every case that has been investigated. The entire child protection system, including CWC, JJB, Child line has not played any role in support of the victims, as well as against the minor accused in the cases that we have investigated, says Manju Prabha, NAWO
The Chief Minister of Orissa claims to have stayed away from New Year celebrations, in solidarity with the recent victim of rape in Delhi, but we wonder what he has done in response to these five inhuman acts of sexual violence on young Dalit girls in Kandhamal? , says Namrata Daniel, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. The families of the rape victims live in abject poverty conditions, without access to basic entitlements. Absence of job cards, access to PDS and other flag- ship programmes was clearly visible in all cases.
Key observations of the fact-finding team include that all the 5 acts of sexual violence were intentional and pre-planned to victimize the girl by raping and even murder. The SC/ST PoA has not been invoked in Tikabali case and hence the accused have been roaming scot-free for more than 5 months. No compensation, no protection and no justice for this young girl who was raped and almost lost her life because the accused slit her neck with sharp knives. Severe gaps in investigation were observed particularly allegations relating to the police forcing the victims to change the statements. Filing of false / counter cases on family members of victims has been observed.
After the rape and murder of young girls, Siblings of victim’s family and other girls in the villages have dropped out from school in fear. In one case Rs. 10,000 was given in case of gang rape and murder and Rs. 5000 for rape was given. Even Human Rights Commissions and other statutory bodies have failed completely in addressing the life security and protection of dalit girls and women in Orissa. No committee working in the district such as Women and child development committee and District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) under SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989, etc.
Most Foul : Pastors and Church Activists Murdered
Orissa takes the lead in not only the Christian activists being murdered but even worse, pastors and church workers being killed. Long after the Kandhamal riots, at least 6 Christians are reported to be killed for their faith. On February 1st, 2012, a Christian activist, Rabindra Kumar Parichha, was killed in Orissa following threats by Hindu radicals. There after it was reported another pastor Jayasen (Renewal Ministries Fellowship) was also murdered. Church workers Suryakant Nayak, an Anglican from Bakingia village (Kandhamal), and Goresa Mallick, a Catholic from Salimagocha village (Ganjam), were also murdered on 6 and 3 March 2012 respectively. On May 2, 2012 family members were informed that Pastor Nirakant Pradhan had expired in prison.
Among the other states, Pastor C. Wilson, 54, was murdered in Tamil Nadu and according to police on 2 June 2012, his body was found on the highway and his skull fractured with stones. In Andhra Pradesh, a evangelist S Dumbu, also known locally as Bingo, was killed around 3 April 2012 in Jerrela village after masked men knocked at the door of his home.
The Worst Ever Harsh Reality – 2012 – A sinister design unfolds
A study of the attacks on Christian in 2012 clearly shows the year to be one where persecution has doubled. This, despite the fact, that there has been no major pogrom, (like Orissa or Karnataka) causing massive threat to life, limb or property. The reason 2012 is the worst-ever year for Indian Christians, as the sheer number of attacks indicate, is because the persecution has become more widespread, covering most states of the country.
As per the reports, there is a perceptible increase in the Hindutva attacks; even in places where the Hindutva brigade (RSS, VHP, BJP, Sangh Parivar, Ram Sene and their spawns) are not traditionally strong. Of serious concern is the fact that a clear pattern is emerging, which shows that Christians are firmly on target of the Hindutva radar of terror. The pan India attacks well documented, expose a pre-meditated sinister campaign to make soft targets of this micro-minority across the country in the year to come. If one goes by the instances recorded and the fact that the Parliamentary and State Assembly elections are due in the next year, one can safely predict a much larger increase in the days ahead.
This preliminary annual persecution report draws from about Top 250 of the most heinous 2012 crimes of targeted violence against Christians in India. It raises relevant issues of freedom of faith and religious liberty, besides abuse of basic human and constitutional rights. The CSF would like to reiterate that these are only the serious ones, that have been brought to light and the attacks that are unreported by the media or not recorded by the authorities, could well be over three times this number.
Forms, Extent & Nature of the Attacks
The nature of these crimes have been categorized alphabetically to reflect the nature and intensity of persecution as - (A) death and murder; (B) grievous injuries and merciless beating; (C) rape, molestation and trauma against children; (D) destruction and desecration of churches, religious articles, seminaries, cemeteries, statues, bibles, etc; (E) Christian institutions, believers' houses, property, transportation, source of livelihood destroyed; (F) religious service or Sunday / Festival worship disrupted; (G) Christians jailed, arrested or detained by police or acted against by the authorities; (H) Clergy, Church workers or Christian laity abused, insulted, threatened or sentiments hurt; (I) Foreign missionaries deported or acted against by government and (J) other forms of persecution/attacks not mentioned above. All the above human rights violation is exclusively directed due to the opponents’ objections to the victims’ professing and practicing the Christian belief, which is a universal fundamental right.
The Brutality & Inhuman Nature
What makes such acts of persecution and anti-Christian violence even more shocking is the fact that they are perpetrated on a micro-minority (2.3%), who are commanded by their faith to turn the other cheek. The believers of no other religion would tolerate such abuse and insult. Further, the communalists are certain about no retaliation from the Indian Christians, as they are indoctrinated by the Church to suffer, forgive and love in return their persecutors.
How else would one explain the silence of the lamb victims, many of whom are senior citizens, women and children, even handicapped and many times with the implicit or tacit involvement of the police, politician and administration.
While all other faith followers are free to pray and celebrate their religious festivals or observations, thousands of Indian Christians across all states cannot do so. Sunday services, prayer meetings, Good Friday, Christmas, Easter, etc. have all been occasions to provoke, threaten and attack. While a threatened strike by the Hindutva brigade prevented Christmas celebrations for the fourth consecutive year in Kandhamal, elsewhere vicious attacks by religious fanatics, left dozens grievously injured during the Christmas season. The situation in other states were no different with reports coming in of Christians going underground or remaining in their houses to observe religious days in an atmosphere of fear and threat.
Recommendations & Appeal
The Union Government must be at least seen to be non-discriminatory, when it comes to those indulging in communal and anti-national crimes. The same yardstick being used for other groups must be used for the Hindutva elements too. The Indian Government must act on the report sent by the State Government and ensure the safety of the citizens, particularly the minorities, who are at the mercy of the Hindutva hoodlums holding the country to ransom.
Indian Christians are neglected because they are a docile and economically weak micro-minority, which is not demanding, unlike the others – Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains. Hence, they are ignored and neglected by the government and parties, who willingly accept their social services, but do not give Christians a fair deal. The unheard voice of Christians and issues need to be highlighted by the media, which is its only hope of getting at least attention. We have recorded great relief coming from coverage in the media.
The proposed "Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence" bill, which seeks to secure justice for victims and bring the guilty to book, needs to be taken-up seriously in the forthcoming session of Parliament and its passage ensured. This will in some way hopefully act as a deterrent to religious and political fanatics. The legislation will also help curb hate speech and similar actions, against which minorities and Christians are especially helpless.
Especially for Karnataka and Orissa, departmental enquiries needs to be conducted and action taken for dereliction of duty, collusion and complicity against all public officials, police personnel, lower judiciary and elected representatives, named by NGOs and independent enquiries. A Re-examination of the FIRs registered as they have resulted in large-scale acquittals of the accused and supplementaries / details necessary need to be filed. A special team of quality public prosecutors and lawyers need to be appointed to represent the victims. Thousands of cases are on against Christians in various courts.
In cases of persecution and attack, especially in case of the Karnataka and Orissa pogroms, which continue to date; the standards set during the 1984 anti-Sikh and 2002 anti-Muslim must be the minimum, for compensation, rehabilitation, reparation and restitution of victims. Unreported cases of sexual and gender violence must be identified. The internally displaced and dispossessed persons must be allowed to resettle back and their reintegration and security needs, through government schemes (aid, jobs, loan, grants, scholarships) for movable property and source of livelihood must be met.
An independent inquiry / agency needs to be set up by the Government to properly record, document and act swiftly on thousands of cases against Christians, to prevent needless on-going torture at the hands of a faulty and biased administrative set-up. The fast-track courts and commissions instituted by the state governments make a mockery of the justice-delivery systems and serve only to exonerate the accused and harass the victims. In case of major pogroms, as those on in Orissa and Karnataka, a Supreme Court judge must thus be appointed to speedily dispense justice, and also those related to the anti-freedom of religion laws in the states to prevent their gross mis-use.
The Lokpal Bill and draconian Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA) must be suitably amended, with provisions for minorities and so as not to become instruments for harassing NGOs, who receive foreign funds for their social services. It is because of such support from abroad, that these NGOs have been able to undertake service that, even the government has not been able to do and reach the remotest corners. The Lokpal Bill proposes to bring NGOs receiving donations above Rs 10 lakh from foreign sources a year under the Lokpal. This will adversely affect the social services sector.
A Desk / Consultative Committee and Nominations for Christian Affairs, in the state and union minority ministry forums would help in tackling persecution issues. The PM’s 15 point programme monitoring committee, minorities’ commission and finance corporation must be appointed mandatorily in all states. The administration and bureaucracy needs to give proportionate quotas among minorities and keep Christians aware of government jobs, loans, plans, schemes, appointments, reservations, assistance, scholarships, public service etc. by having all material available in English and with wide publicity being given and material freely available in vernacular languages too.
The tabling in Parliament of the Sachar Committee Report on the “Social, Economic and Educational Status of Muslims” in India, on 30th November, 2006, even though much delayed in its implementation, has served as a welcome starting point. A Sachar-type study is called for, to identify the travails ailing Indian Christians and to base future corrective and developmental actions for the community. Similarly, the Maulana Azad Finance Corporation is performing yeoman service and a similar institution, named after Mother Teresa can be set up for backward Christians.
It has been well over 60 years that Christians / Muslims of Schedule Caste origin are not given government benefits and discriminated on the grounds of their religion. This despite an arduous battle being fought spiritedly by the communities and only due to lack of political will. Similarly, in as many as 7 states, there are anti-Freedom of Religion Acts, which are used to harass and persecute Christians and the government needs to find a way to do away with such legislation. In fact states like Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh are considering amending the existing laws to make them stricter. Section 295A of the IPC, though often abused is good enough to check abuse, if any in matters of faith.
Evil Designs for 2013, as Persecution Increases
Ground zero updates indicate that not only have attacks on Christian become a regular affair, but also that it would proportionately outnumber the attacks on Muslims, especially since there is no fear of retaliation. In 2011, the general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Pravin Togadia called for a new constitution allowing ‘anyone who converts Hindus to be beheaded.’ Such extremist hate speech tolerated is indicative of a growing hostility towards minorities in the country. This does not augur well for India's international reputation, when it is seeking closer ties with the developed world for its economic progress.
There are instances of over 5000 Christians affected in 2012, which does not include their family, relatives and friends, who were also victimized. The current scenario is not only unprecedented and widespread, but is also marked in terms of its severity and intensity. The recent attacks have clearly exposed the bold and blatant involvement of the State machinery abetting, if not participating in the violence. This too is expected to rise in 2013, with increasing communalization of political parties, administration, judiciary, police, etc.
Most Neglected Victims – Children
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1992 by India, ensures every child in the world has the basic rights to Survival, Development, Protection and Participation - all of which are threatened in instances of communal violence. The impact of communal violence on an unformed mind is indeed shattering and adverse in more than one ways. Children are often voiceless, defenseless and silent observers to the perpetration of such crimes, which affects them more psychologically, than physically. But, apart from this, other effects, include - deprivation of basic education, malnutrition even in refugee camps, fear and financial insecurity, parents fear sending children out, trafficking for child labour and abuse, separation and displacement, disease and injuries, post traumatic disorders, become revengeful and social misfits.
Women – Nuns and Sisters
The most vulnerable section of victims, after children is that of women as noticed in studies on gender violence in the anti-Christian violence. Nuns who are known for their celibacy, and sisters, like wives or daughters of pastors or community leaders, are especially targeted. Several cases have been recorded, where apart from the sexual abuse, such as rape and molestation, the victims face problems with their reproductive organs, suffer miscarriages/abortions, have issues during giving birth to children, freedom of movement restrictions, etc.
The victims and their families cannot resume their livelihood, due to social pressure and ostracism, much time is spent due in pursuing justice, suffering psychological traumas, non-availability of women doctors & medical attention, inhuman state of refugee camps... The women often do not complain for fear of the allegation that it was not rape, but consensual sex on a regular basis and being susceptible to human trafficking, menial jobs, etc. Often women are targeted not for sexual gratification, but to heap humiliation on the males, who are putting up a fight.
Women targeted by Durga Vahini: The rape of even of a nun, besides Christian women, and in case of Orissa, the brutal beating of a priest who refused to participate in the atrocity, highlights the depravity of communal elements involved. The nuns and the novitiates are in a most critical position in times of riots, especially since they are unmarried, defenseless and reach out to help persons in need.
Teesta Setalvad bears witness to survivors in Gujarat saying that sexual violence consisted of not just mass rapes, but also mutilation, insertion of objects into bodies, cutting of breasts, slitting of the stomach and reproductive organs and carving of Hindu religious symbols on the women's body. There was also a deliberate attempt to destroy all evidence, even if it meant killing a 20 day old infant foetus or burning 11 year old girls alive. It is now being increasingly brought out that Durga Vahini, the female face of the Bajrang Dal is being used to commit atrocities on women and causing a division among women and the feminist movement on religious lines. The case of Pragya Thakur arrested in various Hindutva terror case is the pinnacle of women involved in attacks.
Maharashtra’s Hindutva Background?
Maharashtra can arguably be called the Hindutva capital of India, especially since is home of the RSS besides having a communal past and tradition that is varied. In 1923, VD Savarkar after 12 years of imprisonment published his book "Hindutva: Who is Hindu" and ever since began the saga of minority bashing and persecution. His concepts of pitrubhumi (fatherland) and punyabhumi (holyland) excluded Christians and Muslims, who were considered alien to India, whose holy lands were far off. He popularized the slogan: Hinduise all politics and militarize Hinduism.
Another Hindutva activist from Maharashtra, Golwalkar in his tract wrote - "In Hindustan exists and must need exist, the ancient Hindu nation and nothing else but the Hindu Nation. Hindu political parties fueled by such ideologies like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) picked up the concept of Hindutva from these predecessors. RSS was founded by KB Hedgewar in Nagpur in 1925 to promote Savarkar's militant nationalism.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an offshoot of the RSS was formed soon after Pope Paul VI announced his plan to attend the Eucharistic Congress in Bombay in 1964. The Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the VHP was founded in 1984 by Praveen Togadia, who said - "Might is the only law I understand. It’s a warlike situation, as between Ram and Ravana". Sanatan Sanstha, another militant outfit's spiritual head lays out a timetable for Dharmayudh - a religious war to establish a divine Hindu kingdom.
Sanathan Sanstha provides military type commando training and its armed wing is called Dharmakranti Sena. The recent involvement of various Hindutva terror related outfits like Abhinav Bharat, Ram Sene, etc. involved on bomb blasts and attacks on minorities is only too well known.
The Conversion Bogey & Conversion Laws
The Census of India shows a decline in the percentage of the Christian population of India vis-à-vis the total population - 2.6 Percent in 1971; 2.44 percent in 1981 and 2.32 percent in 1991, 2.3 percent in 2001. This decline continues. If despite 200 years of British raj and yeoman service, which the government should be doing, Christians are declining in number, then the Hindutva brigade's allegation of 'conversion' is just a bogey. The real reason for antagonism towards Christians and Christianity is the community’s emancipatory & empowering work amongst the underprivileged, disadvantaged, tribals and dalits. Hundreds of Christians are being persecuted under anti-conversion laws and other sections falsely foisted upon them like 295A, which indicts them for creating enmity on trumped-up charges. In as many as seven states there is legislation that curbs freedom of religion, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan.
Rise of BJP & Political Expediencies
The BJP is either in power or has allied to form governments in states like - Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Delhi, etc. In many other states, it is a strong opposition, with local self-government control.
Another recent phenomena is that the compulsions of coalition politics, which finds even parties like the Congress and Left weak, under the onslaught of regional and smaller parties, like the Shiv Sena, Trinamool, AIDMK, BJD, DMK … which has resulted in minorities being side-lined and reduced to the periphery, to accommodate the demands of the allies and react to the opposition. The Christians are the main sufferers of government apathy and are often caught in the crossfire between parties – to their utter disadvantage.
Sanghi Militancy & Terror
The incidents at Malegaon 1 and 2, Modasa, Hyderabad Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif dargah, Samjhauta Express, besides the attacks on the Christian community proves this point. Further, the NIA (national investigative agency), ATS (anti-terror-squad) and MI (military intelligence) Reports have indicated anti-Christian strain, in the militant Hindutva network running pan India, especially in the states of Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh etc. These terror modules are trained by ex-armymen, like Col. Purohit and encouraged by so-called religious leaders, like Sadhvi Pradnya Thakur and Swami Aseemanand, besides those with other interests. Even the civil society movement is feared to be influenced by the Sangh Parivar, with doubts cast on the secular credentials of Anna Hazare and lately, Swami Ramdev Baba, both of whom the RSS supported.
Relief & Legal Issues
Years after the attacks, especially in Karnataka & Orissa, relief apart, Christians are saddled with false cases, even as the culprits roam free, are acquitted or even worse receive political patronage & given positions of influence. Official enquiries like the Somashekara Commission are used to give a clean chit to the offenders & no convictions, worthy of mention have been granted. The writ of the Union Government is flouted and a Nelson’s eye is turned to the UPA advisories. This is a grave threat to the very federal structure, unity & integrity of India. It has compelled the Union Government to work on a Communal Violence Bill, which hopefully will be of some use, when it becomes law – which is still a far cry away.
Saffronization of All Sectors
The attacks on Christians follow a particular pattern, with meticulous planning, military-like implementation and precision coordination at the highest levels. While Christians have been targeted by Hindutva ideologies, since long, it is only now that they are being marked for systematic attack. It has been noticed that the Hindutva Sangh Parivar & other such fringe outfits have infiltrated the administration, bureaucracy, judiciary, police, media, etc. and are often directed by politicians, especially in states with a strong BJP presence, to get at Christians, who are soft targets, as they are commanded by their faith not to retaliate. This has instilled fear & insecurity among the minorities.
With an overwhelming 80% of the country's population being Hindu and given the lack of political will; it is perhaps natural to expect the powers-that-be (social, political & economic) to be biased towards the faith and not be pro minorities. What is not expected though is State discrimination and implicit or explicit collusion with the perpetrators of human rights abuse.
Even worse is the fact, that such discrimination or collusion is directed against a micro-minority, which is peace-loving and whose contribution to the nation (60% of social services) greatly outnumbers its miniscule population. The government needs to realize that Christians need to be protected and encouraged for the contributions they are making to the development of the country. Indian Christians can be treated shoddily and their issues left unattended only to the detriment of the nation.
Indian Christians have posed no threat to the country and their numbers did not increase despite centuries of foreign rule – French, British, Portuguese… Now the community is threatened to become extinct – thanks to persecution and political discrimination and neglect.
* Detailed Acknowledgements & Credits in the complete report
For More Information, Contact:
Joseph Dias, The CSF Gen. Secretary
Articles for January 31, 2013 | Articles for February 1, 2013 | Articles for February 2, 2013