The rape of a 70 year old Nun in West Bengal in an attack ona convent and school in February 2015 sent shockwaves throughout India, and the world. “Protect not just Cows, but human beings also,” said Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference. At least 43deaths in over 600 cases of violence, 149 targeting Christians and the rest Muslims, have taken place in 2014 in India till March this year, marking 300 days of the National Development Alliance government of Mr. Narendra Modi. The number of dead is other than the 108 killed in Assam in attacks by armed tribal political groups on Muslims. Desecration and destruction of churches, assault on pastors, illegal police detention of church workers, and denial of Constitutional rights of Freedom of Faith aggravate the coercion and terror unleashed in campaigns of Ghar Wapsiand cries of Love Jihad. Since May 2014, there has been a marked shift in public discourse. There has been a relentless foregrounding of communal identities, a ceaseless attempt to create a divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The BJP leaders guaranteed to abuse, ridicule and threaten minorities. Hate statements by Union and state ministers, threats by Members of Parliament, state politicians, and cadres in saffron caps or Khaki shorts resonate through the landscape. But most cases go unreported, unrecorded by police.
The Prime Minister refuses to reprimand his Cabinet colleagues, restrain the members of his party members or silencethe Sangh Parivar which claims to have propelled him to power in New Delhi. Mr. Modi calls for a ten-year moratorium on communal and caste violence. His government soon declares Christmas to be a “Good Governance Day” in honour of the BJP leader and former Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. There are fears at a severe whittling down of the 15 Point Programme for Minorities, a lifeline for many severely economic backward communities, and specially their youth seeking higher education and professional training. Anyway, Mr. Modi’s “assurance” to religious minorities is challenged and countered by Mr. Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the powerful Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, who asserts, repeatedly, that every Indian is a Hindu, and minorities will have to learn their place in
he country.Speaking at the 50th Anniversary of foundation of its religious wing, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Sarsanghchalak bluntly stated that “Hindutva is the identity of India and it has the capacity to swallow other identities. We just need to restore those capacities.” In Cuttack, he asserted that India is a Hindu state and “citizens of Hindustan should be known as Hindus”. Sadhvi Prachi, a central minister, Members of Parliament Sakshi Maharaj and Adityanath are among those urging measures to check Muslims, including encouraging Hindu women to have from four to ten children each. In Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and other states, the terror, physical violence and social ostracizing of Dalit and Tribal Christians, in particular, continues.
The 300 days have also seen an assault on democratic structures, the education and knowledge system, Human Rightsorganizations and Rights Defenders and coercive action using the Intelligence Bureau and the systems if the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act and the Passport laws to crack down on NGOs working in areas of empowerment of the marginalized sections of society, including Dalits, Tribals, Fishermen and women, and issues of environment, climate, forests, land and water rights. This report is focused on issues of communally targeted violence and the politics of hate and divisiveness that emanates from a thesis of religious nationalism.
Mr. Sakshi Maharaj, a god-man, and an influential member of the Parliament on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata party which now governs India has demanded the death sentence for persons who convert [Hindu] persons to other religions. As Indian TV and Print media quoted him, the saffron-clad ascetic politician told a religious gathering in the state of Uttar Pradesh that each Hindu woman should mother four children in order to protect the predominance of Hindus, India’s largest religious group. “Wait for some time,” local media quoted him as saying. “A law will be passed in Parliament in which anyone indulging in cow slaughter and conversion will be punished with the death sentence.” Maharaj said that Indians of Muslim, Christian and other religious faiths who convert to Hinduism, euphemistically Ghar Wapsi or Home-Coming, will not be subjected to the same punishment, as they were all once Hindus.
This is part of a vicious hate campaign which is endorsed by the leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh to which the top echelons of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Ministers of the National Democratic Alliance Government are faithful members. The hate fuels the physical violence, many incidents of police complicity, and State impunity in the persecution of the Christian community in many states of India. The Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, is yet to comment on, much less castigate, the RSS and its affiliate organizations by name, choosing repeatedly to equate “majority and minority” groups in the one statement he made at a function of the Syro Malabar
Human Rights and Civil Society groups have documented at least 43 deaths in over 600 cases of violence, 149 targeting Christians and the rest Muslims, have taken place in 2014 in India till March this year, marking 300 days of the National Development Alliance government of Mr. Narendra Modi. The Christian Persecution data lists 168 cases. An analysis of the Christian data alone shows Chhattisgarh topping the list with 28 incidents of crime, followed closely by neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana, a newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with 15 incidents. Of the deaths in communally targeted violence, two were killed in Orissa and Telengana, 8 in Gujarat, 12 in Maharashtra, 6 in Karnataka and 25 in Uttar Pradesh. Apart from these, 108 people were killed in Assam in attacks by Bodo militant groups. Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of the National Democratic alliance headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, came into power on 26 May, 2014.
The violence peaked between August and October with 56 cases, before zooming up to 25 cases during the Christmas season, including the burning of the Catholic church of St Sebastian in Dilshad garden in the national capital of New Delhi. The violence has continued well into the New Year 2015, with more Catholic churches in the city targetted as incidents continue in other states. Much of the violence, 54 percent, is of threats, intimidation, coercion, often with the police looking on. Physical violence constituted a quarter of all cases, (24 per cent), and violence against Christian women, a trend that is increasingly being seen since the carnage in Kandhamal, Odisha, in 2007 and 2008, was 11 per cent. Breaking of statues and the Cross and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 per cent of the cases, but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions. A disturbing trend was rising communal violence in West Bengal where the BJP and the RSS have redoubled their efforts to fill what they see is a political vacancy following the decline of the Communist Party of India Marxist and the Congress party in recent times.
The rape of the aged Catholic Nun in a Convent and School in Ranaghat in West Bengal, is the most horrendous crime reported in the first quarter of 2015. According to the complaint lodged by the school, seven to eight armed people overpowered the security guard and stormed its compound around 2.30am. Stayed for two hours, raping the Nun, desecrating the Chapel, and then, as one Sister told the police, treated themselves to “imported chocolates, cake and pastries” meant for the students. A police report submitted to the state government said the criminals were “not locals” and this is a pre-planned on the school and sisters.