|Attacking the Cross: Rise in Anti Christian Violence|
By Ram Puniyani
Julio Ribeiro is one of the best known police officers in India. Recently (March 16, 2015) he wrote in his article that he is feeling like a stranger in this country. ‘I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country’. This pain and anguish of a distinguished citizen, an outstanding police officer has to be seen against the backdrop of the rising attacks on Churches and rape of the 71 year old nun in Kolkata. All over the country the rage amongst the Christian community is there to be seen in the form of silent marches, candle light vigils and peaceful protests.
As such during the last several months in particular the instances of attacks, and intimidation of the minority community has become more frightening. There is also a noticeable change in the pattern of violence against them. Earlier these attacks were more in the remote Adivasi areas, now one can see this taking place in urban areas also. The change in frequency of these attacks after the new Government took over is a striking phenomenon.
As such Christians are one of the very old communities in India. Right from the first century when St. Thomas visited Malabar Coast in Kerala and set up a Church there the Christian community has been here, part of the society, contributing to various aspects of social life. The missionaries, the nuns and priests, have also spent ages in the rural hinterlands setting up educational and health facilities and have also founded the most reputed educational institutions in most of the major cities of the country. Christians today are a tiny minority (2.3% as per 2001 census). It has been a community which like any other has its own internal diversity with various Christian denominations.
In this context the rise of anti Christian violence during last few decades in Adivasi areas, Dangs (Gujarat) Jhabua (MP) Kandhamal (Orissa) has been an unnerving experience for the community as a whole and for those believing in pluralism and diversity of the country in particular. The violence which picked up from mid nineties peaked in the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains (23rd Jan 1999) and later Kandhamal violence in 2007 and 2008. After this there was a sort of low intensity scattered violence in remote areas, till the attack on Churches in Delhi from last several months. The Churches which were attacked were scattered in five corners of Delhi, Dilshad Garden (East), Jasola (South West), Rohini (Outer Delhi), Vikaspuri (West) and Vasant kunj (South), as if by design the whole terrain of Delhi was to be covered for polarization. It was claimed by police and state that the main cause of these has been theft etc.; in the face of the fact at most of the places the donation boxes remained intact. BJP spokesperson are vociferously giving the data that during this period so many temples have also been attacked, which is a mere putting the wool in the eye, as the targeted nature of anti Christian violence is very glaring.
In the meanwhile the RSS Sarsanghachalak, the boss of the Hindu right, to which BJP owes its allegiance, states that Mother Teresa was doing the charity work with intent to conversion. Post the statement two major incidents have come to light. One is in Hisar in Harayana, where a church has been attacked, it’s Cross replaced by the idol of Lord Hanuman and the Chief Minister of Haryana, who again has RSS background, stated that the Pastor of the Church has been alleged to be part of the conversion activities. At the same time RSS progeny Vishwa Hindu Parishad stated that more such acts of attack on churches will take place if conversions are not stopped. This incident reminds one of the placing of the idols of Ram Lalla (Baby Ram) in Babri Mosque in 1949 and then claiming that it was a birth place of Lord Ram. In addition the statement of the Chief Minister gives a clear indication as to how the investigation of the incident will take place and whether the real culprits will ever be nabbed. Incidentally there are no police complaints about Pastors’ conversion activities if any, in the police records. This ‘they are doing conversions’ is a standard ploy which is propagated for anti Christian violence, which one has witnessed so far.
After Bhagwat’s comments on Mother Teresa the anti Christian violence seems to be intensifying by the day and the incidence of Haryana and Kolkata are symbols of that and VHP is openly talking of more attacks. When Prime Minister Modi broke his deliberate silence on the issues of violence against minorities, he did say that religious freedom will be respected. But one also knows that what he says and what he means are mostly not the same. Also that now the silence of last several months has given a clear message to his associates in RSS combines that they can carry on their disruptive and polarizing activities at will. A large section within the Christian community feel that Modi was voted on the agenda of development and this type of violence was not anticipated! That is a sheer naivety, Modi is a RSS trained Pracharak, for whom the divisive agenda remains at the core, to be implemented by a clever ‘division of labor’ implemented through different organizations, which are part of RSS combine popularly known as Sangh Parivar.
As such India has been the cradle of many religions, which celebrated and lived together, a far cry from the present atmosphere which is intimidating the minorities. Christian’s plight in recent times is something to which the concerned democratic rights individuals need to wake up to. This seems to be unfolding of the script, Pehle Kasai Phir Isai, (First Muslim, then Christians). It is not just a violation of their rights; it’s also a violation of very basic norm of democracy. As they say, a democracy has to be judged by the litmus test of level of security and equity its minorities enjoy!