India: Extremists Step Up Efforts for 'Hindu Nation'

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Campaign to win masses suggests Christianity threatens religion, country.

NEW DELHI, June 6 (Compass Direct News) -- Televised attacks on Christian workers and a spurt in persecution in various parts of the country point to a renewed attempt to win support for Hindu nationalistic goals, Christians say.

TV camera crews showed extremists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, beating up independent pastor Walter Masih in Rajasthan state’s capital Jaipur on April 29. On May 7 in Maharashtra state, television viewers saw Hindu extremists attacking two evangelists, Ramesh Gopargode and Ajit Belavi of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, in Kolhapur district.

Both attacks were telecast on private national news channels. Dr. John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India, told Compass he has never seen such violent attacks in the presence of TV news cameras.

Dayal added that the televised assaults could invite “copy cat” tactics, but that “it is also because of such attacks that we, at last, have documentary evidence of anti-Christian violence, which we lacked.”

Christians as ‘Enemy’

Dr. Dominic Emmanuel, spokesman of the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, told Compass that the VHP came out in the open to launch the attacks because “they want to get a larger support of the Hindu masses by suggesting that their religion is in danger due to the evangelical activities bringing new converts to Christianity.”

“The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS, parent organization of numerous Hindu extremist groups including the VHP] has the agenda of creating a Hindu nation, and it is trying to tell the Hindus to wake up and protect their religion,” Emmanuel said.

Dayal, also secretary general of the All India Christian Council (AICC), said the VHP’s motive was to send a message to the Hindu community that they have “enemies” beyond Muslims in India, so as to portray themselves as the “protectors” of the Hindus and their religion.

Hindu extremists claim that minority Muslim and Christian communities are a threat to their religion – the former through their terrorist activities, and the latter by conversions. Muslims form close to 14 percent of India’s 1 billion-plus population, and Christians account for 2.3 percent. About 82 percent of the population is Hindu.

Survival Tactics

Stressing that Hindu extremists in India need an enemy to survive, Dayal went on to say that if there were no Muslims and Christians in the country, the RSS would then target Dalits and tribals or anyone who would not fit the Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) ideal or who worship “Mother India” as a goddess incarnate.

“We will have to keep on reminding ourselves and the world that India is designed to be a secular country, and not a Hindu theocracy,” Dayal said. “It is not easy to combat Hindutva. Even the governments cannot afford to hit at the ideology, because ministers and others even in the Congress Party and socialist parties, and often also in the Marxist parties, at some stage bow down before it.”

He noted that the Indian government has long taken more seriously the persecution of Muslims than that of Christians. “We are lobbying to make sure that the anti-Christian violence gets the same attention as anti-Muslim violence in the law against religious violence being formulated in the Parliament.”

Emmanuel of the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi added that portraying Christians as a prime enemy is calculated to win votes.

“The assertion that Christians are out to destroy Hinduism is a totally unfounded belief, but this is what will help them [extremists] to consolidate their Hindu votes to get back to power, which they hope will one day help them to translate their dream of creating a Hindu nation,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which ruled the federal government as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance from March 1998 to May 2004, is the political wing of the RSS. Part of the Hindutva ideology promoted by the RSS foresees non-Hindus having to submit to the will of Hindus with no special or equal rights.

The BJP lost the 2004 general election to the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) but continues to rule several states, either directly or in coalition: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Karnataka and Bihar.

Although the next general election is expected in early 2009 – unless the ruling government falls before completing its five-year term in the office – political parties have begun preparing for it.

Daylight Religion

Several hundred Christians marched through the streets of New Delhi on May 29 to protest the “silence” of the UPA government over increasing attacks on them.

“According to the AICC, at least one incident of anti-Christian attack was reported every third day in 2006,” the Rev. Madhu Chandra, an AICC leader and the coordinator of the rally, told Compass. “This rose to at least one attack every alternate day during the first four months of this year.”

Addressing the gathering, Dayal said Christianity had been reduced to a “daylight religion,” because “the people of the community feel unsafe after sunset.”

He also said it was no longer only the BJP that should be blamed for an anti-Christian agenda. “Look at the Congress-government in Himachal Pradesh, which enacted the anti-conversion law,” he said.

Dr. Joseph D’Souza, AICC president, recently wrote to the Indian prime minister calling for urgent steps to protect the Christian minority. He said the silence of the government could result in the killing of many Christians.

Copyright © 2007 Compass Direct