Site hosted by Build your free website today!
United Christian Forum for Human Rights                                     CBCI Centre, 1 Ashoka Place, New Delhi 110 001
Faith and Courage, and a Continuing Commitment to the Country's poor, weak and voiceless

The issues:

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:
  1. The severity of violence
  2. The geographic spread of the violence
  3. The connivance of political elements and the backing of political groups in power
  4. The complicity of the state machinery, particularly that of the police

The 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 :

  1. Dilution of special encouragement given to charitable work, by the attempt made in taxation laws
  2. Delays in reaching a satisfactory decision on the Dalit issue
  3. Delays in the formation of the Supreme Court bench to consider the question of minorities
  4. Abuse of official powers in denial of visas, harsher conditions for travel and participation visas for conferences
  5. Abuse of official media to manipulate news, and denial of equal media opportunity to minorities
  6. Lack of action on minority finance Development Corporation
  7. Continued ignoring of the national minority commission and its orders
  8. Failure of the national human rights commission to do anything on Christian complaints
  9. 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
  10. Attempted 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.

Anatomy of Violence:

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 aliens.

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, assaulted.

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 minority communities.

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 Bihar.

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 2000 AD.

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 communalism.

The Parivar continues to attack Christians by word and by violence.

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 in Jhabua.

  • 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.

Some 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 hundred.

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 this land?

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.

What is 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 coercion.

This we must do by protesting the current wave of violence.

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 spontaneous protests.

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.