It was the rarest of rare ‘Christmas gift’ that the Christians in India never bargained for. Several Churches and their institutions were vandalized across the country, especially in BJP-ruled States, reportedly by the Hindutva forces during the Christmas week. The hooligans went around wreaking havoc, damaging churches, razing statues, disrupting Christmas celebrations and thrashing Christians. They ran amok with a vengeance; it is a clear message to those who still believe that the minorities are in safe hands of the present government. The sant samagam’s war cry at Haridwar calling for genocide of the Muslim community has come as the last nail in the coffin of secularism or whatever is left of it. It is a scary situation that the Uttarakhand police have not even mentioned the name/s of the accused in the FIR, who openly called for genocide and violence, and till date none has been arrested.
The scripts for the attacks and assaults seem to have been written well in advance by senior Hindutva functionaries. A BJP legislator in Madhya Pradesh recently made their objective explicit when he said, ‘Make India Chadar Mukt, Father Mukt’ (Make India free of veil-wearing Muslims and Christians). A couple of months back, more than 1,000 people had gathered in the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh for a “Band Karo Dharmantran” (Stop Religious Conversions) rally. Addressing the gathering, Parmatmanand Maharaj, a far-right Hindu leader, urged the people to “arm themselves with axes to teach Christians indulging in conversions a lesson”. Such exhortations are an ‘advanced version’ of what former RSS Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar said: The minorities can stay in this country as second class citizens “claiming nothing…not even citizen’s rights”.
The most unkindest cut of all is the non-renewal of the FCRA registration of the Missionaries of Charity, whose members are known as ‘angels in the garb of nuns’, under some mysterious charge of ‘adverse inputs.’ The decision of the government would put the life of over 22,000 inmates at different centres run by the much-admired congregation which is into serving humanity selflessly. This action comes a couple of weeks after an FIR was registered against a children’s home run by the same Congregation in Gujarat.
Even as Christians are becoming sitting ducks to Hindutva activists, what is frightening is the indifference of law-enforcing agencies. When right-wing mobs take law into their hands and hound Christians, police personnel turn a blind eye to them. Instead of arresting the culprits and putting them behind bars, they are asking Christians to refrain from assembling for prayer services. The same law enforcement agencies spring into action when trumped up charges are levelled against minorities.
However, the Church hierarchy does not seem to have grasped the gravity of the situation. They are yet to realize that sand is slipping beneath their feet. Their knee-jerk reaction, through press releases without touching the real issues, is tantamount to turning a blind eye to the attackers. The government might try to sweep the attacks under the carpet, terming such incidents as isolated ones indulged in by fringe elements. It is time for every Christian denomination to come under one umbrella to protect the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion. The government’s sincerity in inviting the Pope to visit India will be tested in cracking the whip against the attackers of Christians and their institutions.