India is the world’s largest democracy with more than one billion people and an economy expanding faster than China’s. Yet there are good reasons to be a worried about. Inequality along with religious intolerance is on the increase. Communal tensions are simmering and freedom of religion and faith is under attack at several levels and by different groups. This is despite the fact that the right to freedom of religion or belief is clearly recognized in the Constitution of India. In addition, India acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and so pledged to adhere to the international standards of human rights enshrined in the treaty. Nonetheless, these guarantees prove not to be enough yet again. Is India moving closer to the Hindu Rashtra? What sort of superpower India will become. What will be status of minorities particularly the Christian who are minuscule in numbers?
The book Religious Freedom and the Saffron Politics by Joseph Anthony Gathia by mapping the religio-ethnic politics underpinning principles of religious freedom in public debates, public policy, and legal opinions offers a compelling and noteworthy study of the philosophical and practical 'uses and abuses' of religious freedom.
Released by the Most Rev. Vincent M. Concessao, Emeritus Archbishop of Delhi, this volume provides an overview of religious freedom issues in India, beginning with a brief historical review and India’s human rights setting broadly, and then discusses the country’s religious demographics, religious freedom protections, and conceptions of “Hindutva nationalism” and its key institutional proponents in Indian society. It then moves to specific areas of religiously motivated repression and violence, including state-level anti-conversion laws, cow protection vigilantism, and perceived assaults on freedoms of expression and operations by nongovernmental organizations that are seen as harmful to India’s secular traditions. The new education policy is especially examined in the light of minority rights.
Given more space, it would have been a pleasure to review in detail some of the excellent individual chapters. Many of them are in fact a delight to read and illuminate issues more or less related to the core arguments in interesting ways.
This book is neither the first nor the last to attack the economic theory of religion but what it does is that it clearly places the debates about religious freedom in the wider context of human rights.
This bold and insightful volume introduces readers to timely, hot button issues facing minorities particularly Christians in contemporary India. Surprisingly this book is dedicated to three religious congregations: SSpS, FCC and SCJM.
This book could not be more timely.
(The writer is Delhi based human rights activist and is associated with People’s Union for Civil Liberties and is editor of The Radical Humanist.)(Published on 06th May 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 19)