Mumbai (AsiaNews) - An "unconstitutional abuse of power that, and once again evidence of how a small harmless community that is contributing so much to nation building is being harassed and taunted", says Mgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi, commenting on a provision taken in recent days by an official of the district of Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh. The authorities have issued a circular banning Christian missionaries in the area from being addressed as "father" by their students. Instead they must now be addressed as “pracharya" which means "Sir".
For months now Christian missionaries are being targeted by Hindu radicals in the Indian state, especially by militants of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). In Bastar district they began by banning Christian activities in some villages and setting out to "convince" Catholic missionaries to be called "pracharya" in their own schools.
However, the circular issued on May 11 by the official school district Mahasamund is even more serious, because it has legal value. The previous move by the VHP against the Catholic priests of Bastar wasan informal agreement, which the priests gave their assent to in order to avoid worsening an already tense situation.
The measure has drawn criticism not only from the Christian community, but also members of the opposition. Bhupesh Bhagel, head of the Congress in Chhattisgarh, has described the gesture as "a clear attempt to radicalize Chhattisgarh". SN Trivedi, party spokesman, said: "It is really regrettable that once again the government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given in to the unconstitutional demands of the VHP ".
The ultra-nationalist Hindu party is at the helm of the central government of India and of many states of the country, including Chhattisgarh. According to many analysts, since the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister attacks on ethnic-religious minorities increased.