This year has seen more violence against the Christian
community in India than ever before in the first Fifty
years of Independence. This has been admitted in
Parliament by the Indian Minister for Welfare, Mrs.
Maneka Gandhi in July this year. Mrs. Maneka Gandhi
singled out Maharashtra and Gujarat for the largest
number of violent incidents against the Christian
community. Since July, the violence has escalated even
more sharply, culminating in the gang-rape of four nuns
in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh.
Especially disturbing are the following aspects of the
violence and the pressure on the community:
- The severity of
- The geographic spread
of the violence
- The connivance of
political elements and the backing of political
groups in power
- The complicity of the
state machinery, particularly that of the police
behavior of the magistracy, the subordinate judiciary and
of the higher judiciary. In addition, the pressure on the
community has taken other forms too, in many of which it
is a co-victim with the Muslim and other minority
communities. These include :
- Dilution of special
encouragement given to charitable work, by the
attempt made in taxation laws
- Delays in reaching a
satisfactory decision on the Dalit issue
- Delays in the
formation of the Supreme Court bench to consider
the question of minorities
- Abuse of official
powers in denial of visas, harsher conditions for
travel and participation visas for conferences
- Abuse of official
media to manipulate news, and denial of equal
media opportunity to minorities
- Lack of action on
minority finance Development Corporation
- Continued ignoring of
the national minority commission and its orders
- Failure of the
national human rights commission to do anything
on Christian complaints
- Continuing delays in
central, state and municipal authorities on
issues such as new land and clearances for
cemeteries, churches and schools, clearing of
encroachments and alienation of properties, and
Hindutva-isation and brahmanisation of the
national education and youth programs which
subverts the education system and erodes the
plural and democratic edifice of country.
The violence is aggressive and its scale, magnitude and
severity it is bestial. The forcible disrobing of Fr
Christudas in Dumka, the murder of two priests in Bihar
and the North East, assault on priests, nuns and
preachers in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab,
Orissa and other states, inexorably culminates in the
rape of the nuns. The body of a Methodist old man , a
Dalit, was exhumed from its grave in Kapadwanj, Gujarat,
by a group of fanatics. Hundreds of bibles were burnt by
hoodlums belonging to a particular group who raised a
hundred year old school run by the. P. Mission in Rajkot
in the same state.. Chapels in mission stations in rural
Gujarat and Rajasthan are razed, village after village.
In Sanjeli, a statue of the Blessed Virgin was
shattered...In Khatima, a church is broken into, and
various statues of Hindu gods installed in the altar...
The incidents continue in Gujarat and in several other
states. In Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa,
Punjab and Rajasthan many prayer meetings have been
violently disrupted and old and young, men and women,
priests and worshippers assaulted mercilessly. Scores of
people have been injured in these incidents so far, some
of them critically.
Many of these incidents have been investigated by the
National Commission for Minorities. Many others have been
probed by unbiased Human Rights groups, who have all
confirmed the severity of violence. They have identified
the assailants and killers as belonging to a group of
organisations that believe in a communal philosophy. The
Chairman of the National Commission of Minorities have
repeatedly called on the National and State governments
to act and bring the culprits to book and to ensure there
is an end to violence against the Christian communities.
His directions have fallen on deaf years.
A White Paper is being prepared and incidents of violence
in various forms jus this year already number close to a
hundred. In Gujarat alone.
The Reports of the Minorities Commission and the Human
Rights groups have categorically established the
involvement of several organisations in this violence,
what is know known as the Hindutva Parivar.
The reports have also exposed the insidious and criminal
conspiracy of intolerance and hate.
The conspiracy begins by fanning hatred, creating a
Mythology of Hate through disinformation and by repeating
falsehoods. The conspiracy is to brand the Christian
community, and in fact all minority communities, as
By propounding a thesis of `One People, One Nation, One
Culture," the effort of this fanatical group is to
denounce the pluralistic traditions of Indian culture,
the richness of its diversity and the spiritual
contribution of its varied faiths. Anyone who is
different is branded as an enemy, and attacked, coerced,
The intolerance and violence was exposed sharply by
Justice Venugopal in the 1982 Report of the Enquiry
commission investigating the Kanyakumari riots against
Christians. He said organisations such as the "RSS
adopt a militant attitude and sets itself up as the
champion of what it considers to be the rights of the
Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to
teach the minorities their place, and if they are not
willing to learn their place, then to teach them a
lesson." (Report of the Justice Venugopal Commission
of Enquiry.) Justice Sri Krishna who this year submitted
his report on the Mumbai riots has described in more
graphic terms the genesis of communal hatred and the
strategy used by these fanatical groups to subjugate the
In the recent attacks on the Christian community, the
dimensions of the violence becomes chillingly clear.
Firstly, the attack is on the physical symbols of the
church, specially on personnel involved in grass roots
empowerment, including priests, nuns,. The attempt is to
scare, coerce, limit.
The second pressure is on institutions, again with the
apparent objective to ensure that Christian social
outreach is curtailed, its developmental contribution to
nation building is minimized, that Christians become
socially irrelevant and therefore easier to target in the
understanding that the majority people will not rise in
your defence anymore.
The final attack is on the charismatic movement, the
evangelisation effort, the preaching and witness of the
word of god, of the healing power of Christ. This is the
final coercion, the final blackmail. It is designed not
just to break our spirit, but to weaken our very faith.
This all is targetted against the minorities. And what
happens when the Minority communities complain?
Fr Christudas was stripped again in police custody, and
officers and judiciary have ganged up to abort justice in
In Gujarat, the chief minister gave a commitment of peace
to the Christian community. This commitment was made to
the national commission for minorities. Despite the chief
minister's personal pledges, attacks on Christians
continue in major Gujarat cities, including Ahmedabad,
Gandhinagar and the industrial capital Baroda. In Orissa,
no one is punished. In Rajasthan, no one of the Sangh or
Hindutva Parivar has been brought to book for saying that
Banswara will be cleansed of all Christian presence by
Several Memoranda have gone to the President of India,
and to the Prime Minister. Our leaders met the Union Home
Minister. He made polite statements and promised to pull
up those who were defending the rape of the nuns.
The government is yet to apologize for the incident. The
government is yet to condemn fundamentalism and
The Parivar continues to attack Christians by word and by
Not only is there no attempt at applying balm to the
wounds, there is an attempt to shift blame. This is
apparent in the three stages of the official and
political reaction on the shocking case of the gang-rapes
- First, the effort was
to try to prove that no one was raped, and that
it was `ordinary' crime, a mere molestation.
- Secondly, the
endeavour was to try to say no one from the
Parivar was involved, that it was not a communal
issue, and finally
- Thirdly, and now, the
effort seems to be to try to prove that
Christians were the rapists.
persons have been arrested. Some of them are said to be
Bhil Christians. But who is to believe the police. The
general perception, and fear, is that this is an official
deliberate ploy to involve Christians to take the wind
out of our protest.
The immediate issue is rape, of course. But rape is not
the only issue.
The trauma of the nuns is the final violence in a long
chain of violence. There have been more than 40 cases
this year in Gujarat alone. The total cases involving
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Bihar, UP, Punjab,
Orissa, Tamil Nadu and even Kerala, are now reaching a
What has happened to the Constitution of India,
to Articles 19 to 30, including the important Article 25,
and to the very guiding principles, the fundamental
rights of guaranteed to each one of us as children of
What has happened to Article 18 of the UN charter on
Human Rights, dealing with the Freedom of Faith, and the
Special UN Resolution on Minorities?
The nation seeks an answer from the governments at the
Centre and in the states, and from the political
leadership of the country.
the Christian response?
Prayer, of course. Christians have never been defeated by
persecution. That is a historical fact.
Also, our continued commitment to witness, and to serving
the poorest of the poor, the outcastes, the bonded, the
women and the exploited children
The response is also to sensitize the secular Hindu, to
network with the movements of civil liberties and those
others who seek to protect the Constitution.
This must be done by first showing that we are conscious
of our own trauma, and that we are strengthened in our
faith so as not to succumb to this insidious pressure and
This we must do by protesting the current wave of
The gang rape of the nuns shocked the entire nation. The
majority of people of this country, specially the Mothers
and other women, were stunned and their anger and sense
of outrage against the fanatical elements has been
forcefully expressed in the columns of newspapers and
Our own nation-wide protest on 4th December 1998, we are
sure, will have the support of all peace loving secular
Indians. Their solidarity will send out strong signals
that the victimization of any of India's many plural
components weakens the entire nation. The efforts of the
communal fanatics will not be tolerated by the entire
people of India.