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EDITORIAL: Whilst Muslims in India bear the brunt of violence unleashed by Hindutva zealots, backed by the ruling BJP-RSS combine, Christians are not spared either. In the latest incident last Sunday in the north-eastern Jharkhand state’s Rorkee city, a 200-strong Hindu mob armed with iron rods vandalised a church and injured several people gathered for prayers. A day later, the police had failed not only to arrest the culprits they registered a case against 10 Christians for allegedly attacking a woman. If that was not bad enough, BJP’s state president Madan Kaushil justified the attack on the church, saying since the place was used for the conversion of Hindus “those involved in the incident were actually residents of the same colony who were angry at the conversions that used to take place in the church.” Further affirming that there is a method to this madness he said, “the incident actually was a neighbourhood matter that has been blown out of proportion.”

Small wonder that ever since India’s ultra Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi came to power in New Delhi, Muslims and Christians are being systematically targeted by activists of BJP and its various adjuncts. On his watch there have been several incidents of church attacks. Each time those on the receiving end have accused Hindu extremists, and each time the police have claimed there was no evidence of it. Time after time it is the same pattern of behaviour. In one incident, after a Delhi church was badly burnt, the police at first blamed the fire on a short circuit, but when the Christian community staged protests a case was registered against ‘unnamed’ persons. As all this went on, let alone order an impartial inquiry, Prime Minister Modi did not bother even to utter a word of sympathy for the distressed members of the Christian community. As regard Muslims, the less said, the better. Desecrations of mosques and unprovoked attacks on Muslims with police connivance, if not active collusion, have become a routine. Then there is a new discriminatory law, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which grants Indian citizenship to migrants from neighbouring countries, with the only exclusion of Muslims, already residing in India.

Like the last few years, in its 2021 report the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal government commission, reiterates its concern over the prevailing situation in India. “Religious freedom conditions in India”, it says, “are taking a drastic turn downward, with national and various state governments tolerating widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities.” Yet whereas American leaders regularly accuse China of mistreating Muslim Uighurs, they remain tight-lipped in the case of India under Narendra Modi, whom at one point the US had refused to issue a visit visa for his role in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom as the chief minister of Indian state Gujarat. Instead, he is offered a place at the high table due to economic and geo-political considerations. The BJP-RSS Hindu supremacists Hindutva project, however, worries many in India still wedded to the idea of liberal democracy. For them secularism, a central principle of the country’s constitution, is worth fighting for. They seem to have a difficult battle on their hands.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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