Focus

Hindutva Terror against Christians

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'The [Karnataka] state is under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days.... On Jan. 26 - the day we celebrated India's Republic Day - Karnataka’s 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city' - Justice Michael Saldhana
By Dominic Emmanuel

The media reports of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) getting worried about Hindutva Terror investigations leading to some of the high-profile names in the RSS like Indresh Kumar and the damage it might cause to its image, is nothing more than a PR exercise. It does not probably realize that the public is too well aware of its ideological moorings, its admiration for Hitler and Mussolini and anti-minority bashing as part of its regular diet.

However much the RSS might try to project an image of itself as a “cultural” organization, the lathi-wielding morning shakas in various public parks are enough proof of the organization’s intent. Is the RSS now afraid that their plans hatched secretly for Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka and other BJP-ruled states will become public as the Police investigations in blasts after blasts are establishing links with its followers?

Reports of the involvement of Hindu groups in Orissa and Karnatka blasts on Christian targets have started appearing in the media. This, despite the fact that the one-man Somashekara Commission appointed by the BJP-ruled Karnataka government to look into the attacks on Christians in 2008, gave a clean chit to all Hindu groups saying none of them were involved in the attacks. Christians have been at the receiving end not only by the Sangh Parivar but also at the hands of the government and occasionally at the hands of the media, who sometimes ignore highlighting the atrocities committed on Christians.

So far the focus of the so-called ‘Hindu’ or ‘saffron’ terror has been only mosques and the Samjhauta Express where bomb blasts took place. Little, if ever, has been written or spoken to connect the attacks on Christians with this brand of terror. Now that reports have started appearing in some of the print media, hopefully a little more attention will be paid to the role of Abhinav Bharat’s Lieutenant Colonel Purohit’s and other persons from Hindu outfits, role in several attacks in the country on the Christian community as confirmed by military investigator’s report.

For the Christian Community itself, these revelations are nothing new. It is only that their voice is often ignored by the Police or by the powers that be. For instance, let us take the case of Swami Aseemanand’s confession before the magistrate after his ‘conversion’ in the prison because of the good behaviour of a fellow Muslim (for the Sangh Parivar that would be a contradiction in terms, ‘good behaviour and Muslims’).

With more revelations made by Swami Aseemanand about his terror links with various Muslim targets such as Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah (not much is being spoken of the blast in Modasa, Gujarat) and the Samjhauta Express blasts, including the surfacing of the RSS activist’s name Indresh Kumar and others, it would be quite illuminating to look into his and others’ role in some other attacks. Of course, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and others tried to brush aside these reports by saying that it was all a political conspiracy to malign the name of the RSS and a technique used by the Congress to divert public attention from the scams.

In the past few years, the number of attacks on the Christian community, monitored meticulously by the Evangelical Fellowship of India has recorded more than 1000 attacks every year. On a petition by the spokesperson of Madhya Pradesh Fr. Anand Muttungal, the MP High Court asked the government of MP to explain as to how in one year there had been more than 180 attacks on the Christian community. No prizes for guessing as to which states have higher numbers of attacks.

Swami Aseemanand had taken upon himself to target Christian missionaries working in the Dangs district of Gujarat ever since he arrived there in the end of 1995. Under his leadership, the VHP and Bajarang Dal organized a rally on Christmas Day in 1998 in Subir to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas. A person allegedly planted by the troublemakers in the Christian crowd that traditionally gathered to celebrate Christmas, threw a stone at the so-called “Hindu gathering”, which had anyway gathered to ‘terrorize’ and attack Christians on the Christmas Day. The carnage, started on Christmas day, lasted well over twelve days. The panicked Christian community just did not know where to turn, for it was the BJP government in Gujarat and the NDA at the centre.

NDA being new to power then and Mr. Vajpayee under pressure from the secular allies of the NDA, decided to make a trip to the Dangs before the smoke from the burnt churches and schools could stop spewing. In his typical style, rather than condemning the series of attack on the Christian community and offering solace to the victims, he only added insult to injury by declaring that there should be a debate on conversion in the country. The then Archbishop of Delhi and the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Archbishop Allan de Lastic, lost no time in calling for a press conference, welcoming the debate, while at the same time reminding everyone about the lengthy discussion in the Constituent Assembly on the subject. Taken aback by the Christian leader’s response and the resignation of Fali S Nariman, the then counsel for Gujarat in the Narmada dam dispute case in the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister backed down on the issue of the said debate.

But the Aseemanands and the Laxmanand Sarswatis of the world had got the message of support for their terrorist activities and felt emboldened to continue their attacks on Christians. Before Assemanand got involved in planning ‘bombs for bombs’, he was busy converting Christians to Hinduism. In 2006 he organized a huge Shabri Kumbh in the Dangs district where the slogan adopted was “Every single person converted to Christianity adds one more enemy to the country”.

The most disheartening part of the story is that the Christian community’s pain and despair does not seem to concern anyone, as the buzz heard in political circles always is, “Not to worry, they anyway do not make for a votebank”. Nor are the Police interested in following up the complaints of Christians terrorized by the right wing groups.

The pattern followed by Swami Aseemanand in the Dangs was replicated in Kandhmal by Swami Laxmananand Sarswati who along with his men on 23 December 2007 objected to the Christian community making preparations for Christmas following which attacks continued against the Christian community for a whole week. Eight months later, when the Swami was hacked to death by Maoists and despite the Maoists and police stating that the Maoists had killed the Swami, the BJP workers, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP persisted with the bloodshed against the Christian community for 42 days, killing nearly 100 people, burning 147 churches and Christian institutions and leaving nearly 48,000 people homeless, not to mention the most shameful act of raping a consecrated nun.

Again at that time, Manoj Pradhan was given a ticket by the BJP to contest elections from G. Udaygiri in the Kandhamal district while serving a jail term as an accused in the murder of Ms. Pariskhita Digal. Pradhan was facing fourteen criminal cases including six of murder and for rioting and arson against the Christian community in October 2008. He contested the elections on BJP ticket from while in jail and won. He later got bail and was free until 29 June 2010 when a fast track court sentenced him to seven years rigorous imprisonment. He was sent to jail immediately but got out on a High Court bail on the very day when the RSS was appealing to the BJP to help it save its name from being tarnished. Prahdan did not make big news in the national print and TV media because he operates in distant Orissa, and perhaps because his victims are poor Dalit Christians.

Ever since the BJP came to power in Karnataka, there have been continuous attacks on the Christian community. Without any provocation, the Ram Sene people have gone on a rampage and beaten up nuns inside their convents. According to Justice Michael Saldhana, former judge of the Karnataka High Court who led the People’s Tribunal Enquiry into the attacks on Christians in Karnataka on behalf of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ Dakshina Kannada district chapter, said, “The state is under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days… On Jan. 26 [2010]- the day we celebrated India’s Republic Day - that Karnataka’s 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city”.

While Christians do understand that the media and the investigating agencies go after the bomb blasters, the community also asks as to why attacks on them in such huge numbers by the very same terrorists is not considered as terrorist attacks? They do not expect much from the political parties, as sadly the community is not perceived as a votebank, except maybe in some pockets of Kerala, Goa and the North East but they certainly expect the conscientious media to speak up for their cause too.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2011 on page no. 1

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