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By ICC's India Correspondent
International Christian Concern
As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) slammed India for its record of growing religious intolerance, Christian communities in India have been disturbed by the BJP-led government's deliberate attempts to cover up the truth about the religious and communal nature of the attacks on Christians and their places of worship. Brushing aside the concerns raised by the USCIRF report, members of the Indian government have claimed the attacks on Christians have not been religiously motivated.
In many cases, this is a distortion of the truth. In fact, most of the violent attacks on Christian minorities and churches have been carried out by hardline Hindu nationalist groups, such as RSS and VHP, that adhere to an ideology that claims all Indians must be Hindus and those who are not do not belong in India.
Government Claims Church Attacks Not Religiously Motivated
Following the latest attack on a church in Agra, where Catholic icons, including a Mother Mary and a Baby Jesus, were damaged and windows were smashed, Arun Jaitly, a Cabinet Minister for Finance and senior leader of the BJP, said in an interview with national television network NDTV, "Not a single case [attack] was carried out by the majority community...nor were they of a political nature or communal." Another BJP leader and Member of Parliament (MP), Udit Raj, said that the recent attacks on churches do not have a communal angle. Rather, he stated, "There are elements who are out to defame the government,"
In contrast to what members of the present government argue, Rev. Emmanuel, a Christian leader from Hyderabad, suggested the incidents of Christian persecution were an anti-Christian conspiracy. While speaking with ICC, he said, "The provocative activities carried on by Hindu radicals is [a] clear demonstration of the hate towards the minority Christian community." He continued, "The physical violence on the community again proves the apathetic attitude of the local administration as if the fringe elements are emboldened by their political affiliation."
Saffron Flags Flying Over Churches
In one incident, disproving the government's claim that Hindu radicals were not responsible for a single attack on Christians, members of the Christ Jesus Witness Prayer Church were attacked by a group of Hindu radicals for raising objections to placing saffron flag adjacent to and then over a church in Malkajgiri, Hyderabad, Telangana, on March 30, 2015.
In India, the saffron flag signifies victory or dominance and right-wing Hindu nationalist organizations have been using the saffron flag after destroying crosses on churches and other places of worship to symbolize the building has been turned into a Hindu temple, which ICC reported on in both September and December of 2014. This action aggressively promotes the radical Hindu nationalist ideology, called Hindutva, claiming India must become a Hindu nation.
According to local sources reached ICC, a mob of 30 Hindu radicals, led by Mr. Golla Balraju, Mr. Nagaraju, and Mr. Ramchander, attacked Christians at the church premises after the Christians raised objection against the radicals placing a saffron near the church wall. Two Christians named, P. Benjamin and Jason, were severely injured in the attack.
The saffron flag flying over the Christ Jesus Witness Prayer Church after Hindu radicals attacked local Christians.
After beating the Christians, the Hindu radicals went to the police station to file a written complaint against the church, accusing the Christians of creating communal tension. The aggressive mob then returned to the church and moved placed the saffron flag on top of the church building. The Christians, who then went to complain to the police, were arrested and further assaulted by the police.
Christian Left Insecure by Government Cover Up
Dr. John Dayal, Official National Spokesperson of United Christian Forum, told ICC, "Mr. Modi has said everyone should feel safe in the country; but not once has he named the [Hindu radicals], perhaps he cannot. Many of the hate mongers are in his party in parliament; at least two are on his Council of Ministers. It is difficult to believe that [these radicals] do not have his permission or at least his indulgence."
Christians continue to suffer at the hands of Hindu radicals as their churches are vandalized and their communities are violently assaulted. It seems the BJP-led government not only gives impunity to these Hindu radical organizations but is also avoiding confronting the religious motivations behind these attacks, particularly those targeting the Christian minority. This cover up has left Christians both insecure and vulnerable to future attacks.
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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