By National Religious Liberty Commission
The peace loving Christian community in India stands firm and united to strongly condemn the latest statement made by Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, who is also the prime ministerial candidate for the Hindu ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allied parties.
In a TV program ‘Aap ki Adalat’, telecast by India TV, a Hindi News channel, Mr. Rajat Sharma, editor-in-chief of the channel, asked Mr. Narendra Modi, aired on 12th April, 2014, a question regarding the demolition of Churches and violence against Christians in the country. Mr. Narendra Modi very promptly replied that he was absolutely unaware of any kind of demolition or burning of any Church in India.
However the fact remains that when large scale Church burnings took place in the Dangs district of Gujarat during Christmas 1998, the then Prime Minister of the BJP led NDA government, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had himself visited the district to take stock of the situation. He saw many burnt Churches there. We reproduce findings of a fact-finding team that surveyed the area:
Number of Churches burnt/destroyed in 1998 in Gujarat: 22
Number of Churches damaged: 12
Number of schools/hostels damaged: 2
Number of attacks on individual: 11
Number of Christians arrested: 43
Districts affected: Dangs, Valsad, Surat, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Kheda
Surprisingly Mr. Modi pretends to be absolutely ignorant and unaware of the fact that Christian sacred places of worship are being demolished or set on fire in India. Particularly in states like Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, which are or were governed by the BJP, though the percentage of such cases is even higher.
We Christians have a very simple question to the proposed prime ministerial candidate of BJP, Mr. Modi:
Why should we trust you and your promises of a Secular India, as mentioned in the election manifesto of BJP?
Will not your silence on such sensitive issues exacerbate the troubles on our community?
We remind Mr. Modi of his participation in talks with the Christian community as part of the BJP and RSS delegation at the turn of the century in the wake of the violence in 1998 and the killing of Australian leprosy worker Graham Stuart Staines and his sons Philip and Timothy and Fr Christuraj in 1999. The dialogue focussed on atrocities on the Christian community and was held in Delhi. The Christian leadership presented a case of atrocities against Christians but the dialogue produced no positive result for the community.
Last month, on March 22nd, 2014 a dialogue was organized by RSS and BJP inviting leaders of the Christian community from many parts of India along with grassroots church workers. The pain and agony was conveyed face to face to top BJP leaders like Mr. Ravi Shanker Prasad, spokesperson of the BJP, Mr. Indresh Kumar, a prominent RSS leader and Mr. Ram Lalji, Organising General Secretary of the BJP.
Still if the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP is feigning ignorance of this truth, then it is absolutely surprising.
Communalism and polarization in the name of religion is growing in India. This is a setback for the unity and integrity of our country. It will not only have a devastating impact on our country but will put relations with the world at large also at stake.
The targeting of religious minorities by communal groups is well evident and extensively documented in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Why is the minority Christian community comprising only 2.3 % of the total population of India being targeted and harassed by communal forces which claim to represent the majority is a question that needs to be answered.
The trauma, the pain, the fear and agony of those who are being targeted is beyond imagination and loses are irreparable. In many cases the trauma is endless.
What do we expect?
As citizens of the world’s largest democracy, we demand equal fundamental rights to religious freedom. Freedom of conscience, free profession and practice and propagation of religion is a right given to every citizen of this great country without fear, and with security provided by the state where this right may be restricted either by extra constitutional interference or through a selective implementation of the law. Is it too much to ask in a Sovereign, Socialist, Republic country? We are not demanding something that is undue or unjustified.
The data clearly shows no decline in such horrific incidences throughout the country. The need of the hour is to expose those with dual standards. We need a concrete solution to the problem.
• We demand the proposed ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill’ be adopted by all parties and passed by the Parliament of India.
• We also demand that discrimination against the Dalit Christians be stopped and that affirmative action for them be restored which was taken away by the 1950 presidential order. This is especially important in the view of around 60% of the Christian population in India being from Dalit background.
We Christians follow Christ and are an indispensible and an inalienable part of this country. Our ancestors are sleeping in the womb of this country.
For further details, please contact Rev. Vijayesh Lal at [email protected], and +91-9810176973