For Indian Christian leader, Narendra Modi is a threat to religious freedom
by Nirmala Carvalho
This is the conclusion reached by Sajan George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) following certain statements made by Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who said that that he likes Karnataka's "saffron wave". Saffron is the colour of radical Hindus, and the state has one of the worst records in terms of the persecution of religious minorities.

Mumbai ( AsiaNews) - If Narendra Modi comes to power "religious freedom in India will be in danger," said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians ( GCIC ) as he spoke to AsiaNews about the latest statements made by Gujarat's chief minister, who is also the prime ministerial candidate for the Hindu ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"I can see saffron waves rising from across the region. It is a delightful sight," Modi said at a rally in Bangalore (Karnataka) yesterday. He was referring to supporters of Hindutva (Hindu fundamentalist ideology), whose symbol is the colour 'Saffron' (orange). In Karnataka, they have often attacked members of ethnic and religious minorities.

Narendra Modi is a former militant with the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS), one of India's most active and violent radical Hindu organisations.

The BJP, which is known for its open support to groups such as the RSS, as well as for backing a state that is "100 per cent Hindu", picked him as candidate for the post of prime minister, ahead of next year's general elections.

Modi is very popular among BJP supporters. He is appreciated for making Gujarat one of the richest states in the country. In turn, he has often stressed the need to give back a "Hindu identity" to India.

At the same time however, he has not been spared criticism (even by some of his fellow party members); in particular, for his ambiguous role in the 2002 violence between Hindus and Muslims, which has been blamed on him.

For Sajan George, "these comments are an alarm bell. The rise of anti-Christian attacks in Karnataka confirms the resurgence of Hindu nationalism in the country. India is a secular country, not one based on Hindutva."

The persecution against religious minorities in Karnataka is among the worst in India, especially after five years of BJP government.

Last 5 May, the Congress (which is in power at the federal level) won state elections by a wide margin.

"The BJP lost control of the state but made ​​up for the defeat with more attacks," the GCIC president told AsiaNews.

According to GCIC data, "in the last three years there have been 150 incidents against minorities: 49 cases of violence and hostility against Christians in 2011; 41 incidents in 2012. Since the start of 2013, we have had more than 40 cases."

"These figures refer only to destroyed churches and to believers who have been attacked or imprisoned," Sajan George noted. "If we take into account every episode of intimidation, persecution, insult or temporary detention, the numbers would be much higher."

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