Intolerant India from Sikhophobia to Islamophobia and now Christophobia Jagmohan Singh
The Christian world is in a state of shock at the turn of events in India with unending violence against poor Christians in the states of Orissa and Karnataka. Jagmohan Singh writes an Open Letter to the chairperson of the Washington-based United States Commission for International Religious Freedom urging strict monitoring of India and putting it on the Watch List of countries which violate religious freedoms. He also urges censure of France for continuing to deny Sikh school students to wear the turban in government schools.
Hon. Mr. Michael Cromartie
Greetings from the land of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who laid down his life for the protection of the right to religion of another community.
Two faces of India were revealed to the world in the last two months �nuclear India and intolerant India. Nuclear India is a relatively new phenomenon, though the world has yet to fathom the designs of India to become a super power and Intolerant India has been around for ages, but as Christians are the victims this time around, may be the international community will take notice and action.
This is the recent toll: 37 Christians killed, 101 churches attacked, one nun's modesty violated and 27,000 Christians rendered homeless in Kandhamal distict of Orissa. Rampant forcible re-conversion of neo-Christians is a regular habit for the 6000 centres of RSS, 1500 Tribal welfare projects and 1,200 education centres �all manned by right-wing forces who are at war with all minorities and regional peoples of India. The government of Orissa resorted to lies and protectionist measures to hide the truth, its police did not file First Information Reports. The government's complicity with the Hindutva bodies is apparent and brazen.
The march of the brahamanical forces against Christians and Dalits is on for a very long time and has been documented by Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups, prompting Dalit organizations to call for the institution of an UN Special Rapporteur on Dalit Rights. India is one country which does not acknowledge the existence of indigenous peoples in the country and continues with the nomenclature of Adivasis �the Stone Age people.
The Indian onslaught is "systematic, ongoing, and egregious" violation of religious liberty. Having suffered Sikhophobia for many years, presently India is going through a phase of Islamophobia on the one hand and Christophobia on the other. The spread of Sikhophobia across the country fetched votes for the Congress party, the spectre of Islamophobia fetched votes to fascist leader Narendra Modi in Gujarat and his party �the Bharatiya Janta Party all over the country when their leadership and followers brought down the centuries-old Babri Masjid. Who will Christophobia benefit, is anybody's guess.
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Islamophobia and Sikhophobia are creations of state agencies unable to build a response to the fight for rights and fundamental freedoms and Christophobia has been started by fascist forces unable to tolerate equality and reduction in their ranks and is abetted by the state through silence and complicity.
This year India has celebrated its sixtieth year as a socialist secular republic. Later this year, the United Nations will be observing the sixtieth year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is opportune time for the USCIRF to hold a mirror unto India and put India's socialism and secularism into a proper perspective and not to be influenced by the size and scale of the growing market mechanism in the country.
From the burning alive of Graham Staines to the violation of the modesty of a young nun, the emboldened lumpens of the right parties which are receiving funding from British and American residents have to stopped in the ranks. Their resources must be cut off. According to Angana Chatterjee, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, "the following Sangh-affiliates, registered charities in the US, allocated sizeable amounts of money under 'programme services', disproportionately directed to Hindutava-affiliated groups in India. Per 2006 tax record, Ekal Vidyalaya allocated more than two million dollars to India, India Development Relief Fund allocated 1.6 million USD, and Sewa International USA allocated 284,000 Dollars." All this money has directly and indirectly reached Orissa.
Bajrang Dal activists have been caught red-handed making bombs in Nanded and Kanpur. Some died making bombs. The police have failed to register cases, prosecution would be a far cry. Prakash Sharma, Suhas Chouhan, Vinay Katiyar, Surendra Jain of the Bajrang Dal and Dr. Praveen Togadia should be debarred from entering US and other countries. Simply, they are terrorists who have not been classified as such.
India has to be put up on the Watch List of countries where religious freedom conditions are such that they require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in and tolerated by India. The RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal �to name a few have been engaged in all activities against multi-religiosity, secularism and pursuit of their professed aim of making India a Hindu-India, actually Brahman-India.
With the only declared country �Nepal ceasing to be a Hindu country, there is a greater sense of urgency in the nefarious minds of these fascist zealots to make India a Hindu country. This is the root cause for the growing intolerance in India.
As you are mandated "to advance the visibility of and serious thinking about how the United States can best address the challenges of religious extremism, intolerance, and repression throughout the world", all such organizations, who in the name of social work are pursing their anti-minority and anti-people agenda, should be put under the scanner in the Untied States. If minority organizations seeking to pursue their ethnic rights can be listed as terrorist organizations, surely it would be proper to debar those organizations that have a proven record of racist actions and ethnic cleansing roles. The USCIRF should not delay in checkmating RSS, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The embargo on the entry of mass-terror specialist and chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi should be followed up with these measures.
It is significant that India's National Commission for Minorities has for the first time since its inception called for a ban on the right wing body, Bajrang Dal, but that is certainly not enough. Fascist methods are being adopted in this country with such glaring impunity that the events unfolding daily are a grim reminder of Hitler's Nazi Germany.
Ethnic minority peoples eagerly await the report of Ms. Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, who this year spent two weeks to have a first hand understanding of the religious rights situation in India. USCIRF can draw up on that information too and intervene soon.
Sometime back -a few years ago, USCIRF came close to putting India on the Watch List, but the intervention of one of the commissioners saved India.
As many activists in many countries do not know about the role that your organization plays as a bipartisan federal body assessing and proposing US foreign policy action to advance freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and other freedoms needed to protect people at risk of abuses, such as killing, detention, or torture, I think that USCIRF should make special efforts to popularize its work and also undertake more regional studies to advance its mandate, particularly in South Asia. It is appropriate that the USCIRF seek data from various credible members of civil society in India about the right to religion in the country.
Your Commission has rightly stated that the "internal affairs" argument used by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes dissolves when those governments undertake international commitments. To further its nuclear ambitions, India has made a variety of promises and the test on the religious liberty front would be a small one to gauge whether it will fulfill its bigger promises. The worldview should be that Nuclear India must be kept under observation and while the celebrations are on in New Delhi and Washington, apolitical bodies must send out the right message �loud and clear.
While Kandhamal still burns and poor Christians are being lynched and their homes ransacked, the Sikh, Muslim and civil society leadership has rallied behind the Christians. The Sikhs have done so as it is teaching they have imbibed. Bhagat Kabir in Guru Granth Sahib says, "pwrosI ky jo hUAw qU Apny BI jwnu ]167] -You know that whatever happens to your neighbours, will also happen to you."
The Christian leadership, though very influential, has all along inured itself from the misery and suffering of other minorities when under attack. In June 1984 and November 1984, there were comments in the Christian Science Monitor and words of compassion from the Pope in Vatican, but the Christian religious leadership in India chose silence and neutrality. Same has been the case when Muslims were the butt of attack in the carnages in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. It is high time for the Christians to throw up political leadership in the country. It is my belief that if Indian Christians continue to shy away from activism, turn a blind eye to misery of other communities and limit themselves only to educational, oecumenical and proselytization activities, that would be a wrong policy.
I am sure that you will take up the Christian case. I also urge you not to forget the case of Sikh students in France. In a paradoxical statement, given out just a few days ago, in response to a journalist's question, President Sarkozy has said that France respects Sikh customs and practices, but the Sikhs are welcome to France without the turban as the Sikhs will have to adhere to French rules and regulations. Need we say more?
Holocaust writer and himself a victim of Nazism, Eliezer Wiesel while accepting the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize said: "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or their beliefs...."
Your call, USCIRF.
8 October 2008 -- Cynthia Stephen Independent Writer and Researcher
dai remmei wrote:
A must read for every thinking Indian
Hapless Christians handy for minority bashing
Author: Dipankar Gupta
Published in: "Mail Today"7th October 2008
[Profile of the Author: The writer teaches sociology in JNU
Professor of Sociology, Center for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University , New Delhi , India
Chairman, Centre for the Study of Social Systems
Director, Academic Staff College
Sr. Advisor, KPMG, Business Ethics and Integrity Division]
Why the Christians? Have we run out of Muslims and Sikhs, that a small and insignificant minority should be slaughtered, pillaged and raped at will by right wing Hindutva forces? This may sound strange, but in a real sense that the saffron mob has in deed — if not in words — run out of options. This is why they have now turned against Christians. They are the last soft target.
The Sikhs set the retaliation game in motion. They hit out, often randomly, at designated targets making it known to Hindu sectarians that taking on a Sikh will not be a picnic any longer. This stopped further attacks against them. The Muslims picked up this lead and set their own pace by orchestrating the Mumbai blasts of 1993, and several after that in quick succession. So the Muslims can no longer be hunted down either for casual Hindu amusement.
This only leaves the Christians. It must be borne in mind that Hindutva activists are at their predacious best when the kill is easy and their own safety assured in advance. This is why where Christians are in sizable numbers, such as in Nagaland, Kerala or even Goa , Hindutva sectarians dare not touch them. Instead they turn to areas like the Dangs in Gujarat or Kandmahal in Orissa where Christians are scattered and isolated. In these places it is easy to kill without the fear of being killed.
Ever since the Mumbai blasts the Muslims in that metropolis feel much safer. In many sensitive areas they have had no difficulty in increasing the plinth area of their mosques or the height of these structures. In fact, word has gone around among Muslims in the city that they can count on Shiv Sena support for these activities.
If truth be told, the day after the Mumbai blast in 1993, the Shiv Sena newspaper Samna editorialized in a most conciliatory fashion asking for greater understanding between communities.
Till then Bal Thackery, through this daily, was spewing hell fire and brimstone. What led him to alter his tone? What had changed? The answer is ridiculously simple.
One of the bombs in the Mumbai blasts went off outside the Shiv Sena office. This scared the Shiv Sena heroes into changing their tone and going immediately on the defensive.
Something quite similar happened in Gujarat . After Godhra, bombs went off in different parts of India , including Ahmedabad, but this time there was no Hindutva " retaliation". If Modi could not control the Hindus after Godhra, how did he manage it in the face of a clear and direct challenge from Muslims in his own state? Clearly, fear of Muslim retaliation filled the bullying hearts of Hindutva partisans. They now realized that hate shrapnel could also be directed towards them. This took the shine off from anti- Muslim carnages. This gave them more than enough reason to pause.
And while they paused they pondered.
If not the Sikhs and the Muslims, who then? Then the paisa dropped — of course, the Christians! This is why it is important to distinguish between those who are willing to die for a cause, from those who are only willing to kill for one. Hindu extremist parties and organizations, all the way to the BJP, can encourage, condone and organize mobs to kill for Hindutva, but none of them is willing to die for it. This trait also separates fundamentalist from pure ethnic baiters. A fundamentalist like Khomeini, and even Bhindranwale, would encourage the faithful to go back to the foundational principles of their religion and draw strength from there. Khomeini said that America may be the house of the Shaitan , but Muslims must pay attention first and foremost to the five pillars of Islam.
No such catechism for the Hindutva mobs. Bal Thackeray said that to be a
good Hindu one must be ready, willing and able to attack Muslims. He believed that this was the surest way of avenging centuries of hurt. It is, therefore, not necessary for Shiv Sainiks, or for most Hindu sectarians, to be well versed in Hinduism. This is why Shiv Sainiks believe that good Hindus can be in blue jeans, as long as there is hate in their hearts and saffron in their flags.
It should be clear by now that there is no social science behind the killings of Muslims, Sikhs, or Christians. Even so, academics, intellectuals, commentators and secular do- gooders are always searching for social and economic reasons behind these ethnic slaughters. What they do not realize is that the moment one gives into this kind of weak secular urges, Hindutva mobs find easy justification. Muslim terrorism today has nothing to do with Al Qaeda, Taliban, Palestine , or even Iraq . These terrorists are home bred and are direct outcomes of Babri Masjid and Godhra.
So when Christians are being killed let us not search for its causes in the rising graph of conversions. Such an exercise is not only fraught with difficulties, but it may also direct our attention to poverty- based explanations.
Which in turn would be the reason for something else, and the regression exercises could go on.
What such analysts should ask is: Why don't these Hindutva activists go to Nagaland or somewhere else where Christians are in a majority and show us their nationalist derring- do there? Why is it that they are only active
where their safety is guaranteed? In places where there is no administrative encouragement, sanction or connivance, Hindutva activists, of whatever description, dare not strike any minority community.
This is why such attacks take place largely in BJP run areas like Gujarat , Rajasthan, Karnataka or Orissa.
Wherever Hindutva presence is built into the state administrative system, saffron forces are assured that every ethnic attack will be like a picnic.
Even as L. K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and BJP national leaders assembled on September 14 in Bangalore , 16 churches were attacked in Dakshina Kannada, Chikmaglur and Udupi.
When it comes to linguistic and caste wars there is social science involved as jobs are to be won or lost on these grounds. But when Muslims or Christians are killed, nobody wants their income or livelihood. They are attacked only to make Hindutva organizations look good, and nothing else. This is why, in such contexts, social science of any kind is irrelevant.
Social forensics, however, can be of some use in these circumstances. It would be interesting to know who killed whom, for how much and for what? But it will not be a smooth run for too long. When people have their backs to the wall, they have to hit back. True, battle is not built into the Bible as it is in Sikh and Muslim texts, but that can be easily overcome.
Remember the early history of Christianity is all about martyrs. In the medieval years it was about the Crusades.
These are background memories that can always be enlivened.
The most effective way however is not to set up vigilante groups, or terror outfits, but to make the state responsible for protecting minorities, and ensuring that the Constitution and the law of the land are upheld.
Citizenship knows no colour or creed, and if the Christians are the new Muslims of today, our state should bear the responsibility for this outcome.
[Author's profile:Karan Thapar born in November 1955 in Srinagaris perhaps India 's best known television commentator and interviewer. Thapar is noted for his aggressive interviews with leading politicians and celebrities - his interviews with cricketer Kapil Dev where he broke down into tears, Manmohan Singh, General Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto , US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and His Holiness The Dalai Lama are particularly well remembered by Indians. An alumnus of The Doon School and Stowe School , he graduated with a degree in the Economics and Political Philosophy from Pembroke College , Cambridge in 1977. In the same year, he was President of the Cambridge Union. He subsequently attained a doctorate in International Relations from St Anthony's College, Oxford . He began his career in journalism with The Times in Lagos , Nigeria .]
Does the VHP have the right to speak for you or I? Do they reflect our views? Do we endorse their behaviour? They call themselves the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but who says they represent all of us? This Sunday morning, I want to draw a clear line of distinction between them and everyone else. My hunch is many of you will agree.
Let me start with the question of conversion — an issue that greatly exercises the VHP. I imagine there are hundreds of millions of Hindus who are peaceful, tolerant, devoted to their faith, but above all, happy to live alongside Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Jews. If any one of us were to change our faith how does it affect the next man or woman? And even if that happens with inducements, it can only prove that the forsaken faith had a tenuous and shallow hold. So why do the VHP and its unruly storm troopers, the Bajrang Dal, froth at the mouth if you, I or our neighbours convert? What is it to do with them?
Let me put it bluntly, even crudely. If I want to sell my soul — and trade in my present gods for a new lot — why shouldn't I? Even if the act diminishes me in your eyes, it's my right to do so. So if thousands or even millions of Dalits, who have been despised and ostracised for generations, choose to become Christian, Buddhist or Muslim, either to escape the discrimination of their Hindu faith or because some other has lured them with food and cash, it's their right.
Arguably you may believe you should ask them to reconsider, although I would call that interference, but you certainly have no duty or right to stop them. In fact, I doubt if you are morally correct in even seeking to place obstacles in their way. The so-called Freedom of Religion Acts, which aim to do just that, are, in fact, tantamount to obstruction of conversion laws and therefore, at the very least, questionable.
However, what's even worse is how the VHP responds to this matter. Periodically they resort to violence including outright murder. What happened to Graham Staines in Orissa was not unique. Last week it happened again. Apart from the utter and contemptible criminality of such behaviour, is this how we Hindus wish to behave? Is this how we want our faith defended? Is this how we want to be seen? I have no doubt the answer is no. An unequivocal, unchanging and ever-lasting NO!
The only problem is it can't be heard. And it needs to be. I therefore believe the time has come for the silent majority of Hindus — both those who ardently practice their faith as well as those who were born into it but may not be overtly religious or devout — to speak out. We cannot accept the desecration of churches, the burning to death of innocent caretakers of orphanages, the storming of Christian and Muslim hamlets even if these acts are allegedly done in defence of our faith. Indeed, they do not defend but shame Hinduism. That's my central point.
I'm sorry but when I read that the VHP has ransacked and killed I'm not just embarrassed, I feel ashamed. Never of being Hindu but of what some Hindus do in our shared faith's name.
This is why its incumbent on Naveen Patnaik, Orissa's Chief Minister, to take tough, unremitting action against the VHP and its junior wing, the Bajrang Dal. This is a test not just of his governance, but of his character. And I know and accept this could affect his political survival. But when it's a struggle between your commitment to your principles and your political convenience is there room for choice? For ordinary politicians, possibly, but for the Naveen I know, very definitely not.
So let me end by saying: I'm waiting, Naveen. In fact, I want to say I'm not alone. There are hundreds of millions of Hindus, like you and me, waiting silently — but increasingly impatiently. Please act for all of us.
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