Violence Against Christian Minority in India
As violence against the Christian minority escalates in the province of Gujarat in India, the Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee declares the need for a national debate on forced conversions in India. But what else can be expected of a man who is a member of the fascist organisation called the Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the National Volunteers Corps. It is the same person who in 1995, writing about the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque in 1992 by people belonging to the RSS, VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Bajrang Dal, two sister organisations of the RSS, commented that this (demolition) is a step towards cultural cleansing of minorities!
Twenty two churches were destroyed and burnt in 1998 in one district of Gujarat, 16 of them around Chrismas time, between December 25, 1998 and January 3, 1999. Dozens of other churches have been damaged, people have been killed and injured, including rape and murder of Nuns. It should be noted that the province of Gujarat has a BJP government, the same party to which the Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, belongs.
While the Hindu fundamentalists have stepped up their attacks on the Christian and Muslim minorities in India, particularly in the BJP-controlled province of Gujarat, in spite of widespread protests across the political spectrum all over the world and strong indictments by the National Minorities Commission and a number of citizens' fact finding teams, the Prime Minister of BJP-coalition ruled government of India, has exonerated the Gujarat government led by his own party and openly endorsed the Hindu fundamentalist line of 're-conversion'. Rather than restraining the activists and goons of communal-fascist outfits like RSS, VHP, Hindu Jagaran Manch and Bajrang Dal, he has opened up to debate an issue which is the fundamental right of every citizen and is moreover a private affair. He has also turned a blind eye to the only forcible conversions actually taking place in the country today, that is, forcible 're-conversion' of Christian tribals into Hinduism.
It is evident that the Prime Minister is not interested in holding the VHP, Bajrang Dal and allied organisations responsible for these incidents. Clearly, his own ideological position is no different from these organisations. Despite his oft repeated claim that in his trip to Gujarat he would take an objective stand on the situation he seemed to be unmoved by the spectacle of terror and violence.
The attempt to whip up anti-Christian sentiments is as organised as the ongoing attempt to generate anti- Muslim feelings. The pattern of attack on Christians is similarly directed at places of worship, equally orchestrated, and timed according to religious occasions. Just as for Muslims so called 'historical injustice' becomes the focus, for Christians so-called 'forcible conversions' are being made into an issue. Both groups are accused of being anti national by the Hindu nationalist organisations, both are sought to be marginalised, and in both cases whipping up communal passions is the occasion for trying to reverse the democratic provisions in the Constitution.
In all this it is forgotten that VHP is a missionary organisation, receives massive funds from abroad and that its campaign for so called 're-conversion' in various provinces, is not only backed by organisational power but is in reality a hate campaign against minorities. Through this the VHP is trying to build a siege mentality among Hindus. The 'ban' sought on conversions conveniently covers up the proselytizing activities and agenda of the VHP and other Hindu organisations in the past few decades. A 'national debate' on so- called forcible conversions by minority groups will only serve to reinforce the falsehoods and artificial divisions, and sanction the violence through which they are being generated.
It is also significant that this should be privileged as a subject for national debate by the Prime Minister rather than the pressing issue of unemployment and poverty which affect the day to day life of millions in the country. We reject the call for a national debate on 'forcible conversion' for which terms and agenda have already been set by the aggressive actions, propaganda and rhetoric of the Hindu nationalist organisations. Such a debate will not strengthen democracy. It will only foster discrimination, social prejudice and religious intolerance.
- Feroz Mehdi