Plight of Indian Christians
Dr Muqsudul Hassan Nuri, Asghar Ali Shad
This article touches on some of the instances of oppression, persecution, and discrimination Christians in India have faced for the last 64 years. The article’s author points out that, “the stark reality of persecuting and tormenting the Christians in India is an ongoing concern.”
Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujerat, Narendra Modi, criticized former Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi while addressing workers of BJP on 4 June. He said that the former prime minister during her election campaign in northeastern India had delivered an objectionable speech. According to Modi, she remarked that if the people of that region voted in favour of Congress Party, then after gaining victory she would run the government of India according to the principles and commandments of Bible— the holy book of Christians. According to Modi, Indira Gandhi had committed a sin by expressing a desire of running the administration of India according to the Bible. Moreover, according to him, only Hindus have the ultimate right rule India. Right now, Modi is a strong candidate for the next prime ministership of the BJP. Moreover, such a statement by a high profile Indian leader shows that the Indian elite political cadres nurture abhorrence towards the Christians like all other minorities.
Paradoxically as other minorities, Christians are also not safe from atrocities inflicted by the Sangh Pariwar. The Christian community has remained victim of oppression and aggression for the last 64 years but since the last few years it has been facing the brunt of this attack. In 1998 as BJP came into power, the Christian community came under severe threats due to radical Hindu mentality. Muslims and Sikhs have earlier suffered hardships due to Hindu radicalization. Nonetheless, as the BJP took over the power Christian community in India life and property became more and more difficult.
Historically, India has been reluctant to accept the existence of Christian community openly. Consequently, whenever any Christian tries to attain a prominent position in any field in India, the extreme Hindu mentality comes into instant play and starts mounting a propaganda campaign in order to mar the image of that person. In this regard, even the saintly figure of Mother Teresa was not spared as she was accused of a ‘hidden agenda’ in spreading the gospel. In addition, the end of 1998 an economist, Dr Amartya Sen, an Indian born Christian was awarded the Noble Prize, but he evoked repugnance from the radical Hindu cadres. The BJP and subordinate groups were of the view that Dr Sen had been using his knowledge in aid of Christian missionaries. It’s another thing that later on, after the conferring of the prestigious award, then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, wrote an apology to him over the negative attitude displayed by his some party members.
Interestingly during the BJP tenure, Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal played a crucial role in escalating oppression against the Christian community. In 1998, a number of Christian houses were razed to the ground and many christians were killed in the states of Orissa and Gujerat. Also, worth mentioning is that in both provinces, the BJP was then ruling at provincial level. So, the Vajpayee government could not absolve itself from the responsibility by claiming that maintaining peace in the provinces was the responsibility of the provincial governments. On the one hand, Sangh Parivar engaged Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal against the Christians while on the other it launched an organization in Gujerat, named Hindu Jagran Manch, a society for spreading awareness about Hinduism. Similarly, another committee, Dharam Raksha Smithi (Religion Defense Committee) was established. In addition, during its regime oppression increased to such an extent that the Christian community were forced to observe December 4, 1998 as the ‘Black Day’.
Despite this, organized violence against them did not reduce in its intensity. In early 1999, in the city of Nashik located in the province of Maharashtra, a mammoth gathering of 10,000 radical Hindus forced 37 Christians to embrace Hinduism under leadership of an extremist Hindu leader, Vidya Shankar Bharti. In reaction, the head of the National Council of Churches of India, Raja Ratnam used harsh language against the Sangh Parivar and strongly condemned the act. He said that if the radical Hindus did not stop oppressing the Christian minority, the Christian population of nearly 4 crore people would initiate a movement for their survival in India. The stark reality of persecuting and tormenting the Christians in India is an ongoing concern. A Christian missionary doctor, Graham Stanley, and two young kids were cremated alive by the Bajrang Dal’s Dara Singh and companions. In fact, the poor doctor had earlier helped the oppressed Hindus of Orissa in all possible ways.