India is constitutionally secular country. Right to religion is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen in India, which include the right of the individual to practice, profess and propagate their own religion without any interference of State under the ground of morality, health and public order, But many a time India as nation have faced major riots and communalism which is major black spot on the secularism for e.g. demolition of Babri Masjid, Gujarat riot on 2002, 1984 riot against Sikhs etc. Since BJP came to power in 2014 B.J.P there is spike on rising hatred against minorities, riots and communalism. Recently during Christmas, Christians in many parts of India have faced attack, Churches were broken, many were beaten up, Santa Claus were burnt publicly and hate speech were shouted on public places against Christians. In South Delhi Chhatarpur one Church was demolished by Bajrang Dal goons, In Khori, Haryana again Jesus statue and Church was demolished and many other places have witness the similar problem of attack on convent, Church, priest was beaten up etc.
According to the calls received by UCF Uttar Pradesh reported 66 hate crimes against Christians, followed by Chhattisgarh (47), Karnataka (32), Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh (30) each, which include cases like demolition of Churches, convents, Statue of Jesus, disruption of Christmas celebrations etc. Along with the attack on Churches the major attack on secularism and Indian constitution was Karnataka govt. passed the anti-secular bill called ‘anti-conversion’ bill. The anti-conversion bill is anti-constitution as the constitution of India gives freedom to every citizen to practice, profess and propagate their own religion, which also include the choice of the adult to choose any religion or not too.
False narrative about Dalit’s conversion into Christianity
The narrative that is set by the present government and sold in social media about conversion into Christianity majorly by Dalit community is that they are lured and converted. They are converted against the exchange of money and few objects. Often in social media many Dalit Christians have faced online abuses where they are termed as ‘rice bag converts’ means converted against the exchange of one bag of rice. But the reality is far away from the narrative set by the government led by the Hindutava forces and sold by the IT cells in social media.
Dalit are the lowest within Hindu religion, historically they were denied of basic human rights like Dalit cannot use the services of barber, wells, rivers, markets which are used by the upper caste in the village, they are forced to live in outskirt region of the village, never allowed to enter the temple and forced to do all kinds of odd jobs like cleaning the toilets, construction etc. where they were denied of payment. The Dalit were denied of self-respect. So, Dalit’s conversion to Christianity or any other religion is/was a rebellious act against the caste slavery, an outcry against historical injustice and a major movement for self-respect. It is not only a rebellious act for their own self-respect but also a major challenge against the motto of the Hindutava groups called ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Hindu religion is based on the system called caste system where one dominates over the other. So, the rule of Hindus in Hindu Rashtra would be the rule of Upper Caste over the Dalit, the dominance of Upper caste over the Dalit.
The conversion of the Dalit into Christianity put a set back to their atrocious dream called formation of Hindu Rashtra.
Is the present govt. only responsible for increasing hate against Christian community?
The major question is can one only blame B.J.P for the rising of Hindutava goons, attack on minority institution and rising fear in the Nation? Historically if we look back then can trace that the notorious Hindutava group name Bajrang Dal came into existence in 1984 (during congress rule) which is responsible for riots, crime against minorities, attack on other religious institutions. The Hindutava groups like Bajrang Dal, Hindu Jagran Morcha (HJM) were responsible for the worst pogrom against Christians like Khandamal Massacre in 2008.
In 2008 Khandamal Massacre is known as widespread violence against Christians who were Dalit. In August 2008, after the murder of Hindu monk name Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati the B.J.P M.L.A name Manoj Pradhan openly raised anti-Christians slogans, distributed pamphlets against the Christians and instigated people with false narrative that Christians are responsible for the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. The leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Gouri Ram Prasad blamed the Christians for the murder and said that they will retaliate the violence with violence. According to govt. reports at least 39 Christians were killed, 3900 Christian houses were brunt, more than 395 Churches were brunt, around 5600-6500 houses were demolished, more than 60,000-75,000 people were left homeless, many were forced to consume cow dung and many who were settled in relief camps were forcefully converted into Hinduism.
The violence didn’t end there many Christian women were raped openly paraded naked in front of public. The worst was one Christian nun was brutally gang raped at Nuagoan, Khandamal. She was paraded naked in presence of the public. Reuters reported the case as “40 men gang raped me, said the nun”. Later Maoist insurgent groups claimed to have killed Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. The false narrative of the V.H.P and Bajrang Dal leaders instigated worst pogrom against the Christians which cost thousands of lives.
The central govt. and the then Prime minister Manmohan Singh called out the violence and promised for justice. Vatican city condemned the violence and urged for maintaining peace and co-existence. Major conspirators against the Christian community Manoj Pradhan and Gouri Ram Prasad were arrested but later were released on bail. In 1999 the V.H.P goons have spread hate against the Christian convents whose major role was to serve the leprosy patients in Kandujhar. The hate lead to the killing of Christians father Graham Stuart Staines an Australian missionary and his two sons Philip and Timoty. They were burnt alive by the Bajrang Dal goon name Dara Singh who accused them for converting the poor and Dalit to Christianity. In 1998 in Southeastern Gujarat in Dang district Hindu Jagran Morcha organized anit-Christian campaign, slogans were raised against the whole community, 4,000 people participated in the hate campaign which resultant into killing of thousands of Christians in the region.
After 2014 the hate speech, riots, attack on minorities have increased but it was never unknown to India. Recently anti-conversion bill have been introduced in Karnataka assembly but the false narrative set against the Christian community for converting Dalits against the exchange of money is not new, the narrative which have cost the lives of the Dalits in Khandamal District of Orissa and of Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines.
All the notorious Hindutava groups came into existence during congress time for e.g. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (1964), Hindu Jagran Manch (1978), Bajrang Dal (1984) and have committed many massacres against minority groups including Christianity like Khandamal massacre. Congress appeasement towards the majority Hindu community, its soft nature towards the Hindutava goons for vote bank, its showoff as better Hindu group have given the space to the Hindutava goons like Bajrang Dal to grow and commit crime which later have given huge space to them to radicalize people and create a strong base for B.J.P to come to power. So, the hate against minority Christian community has increased undoubtedly but the idea is thousand years old which are not only anti-minority but also anti-Dalit and anti-human.
The author is a MPhil student at TISS Mumbai. Views expressed are personal.
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