Mumbai (AsiaNews) - On July 19, India will go to the polls to elect the new president of the country. Among the names on the ballot, that of Purno Agitok Sangma stands out; he is a tribal Catholic and one-time hardliner in Congress, who a few days ago said: "Where is the evidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is responsible for the anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal? Let's not jump to conclusions... Let's not make such allegations." Words considered controversial by most of the Indian public opinion, both Christian and non, also because it is precisely the ultra-nationalist Hindu BJP party that is fully supporting his candidacy (see 06/26/2012, "Raghuvanshi: the BJP manipulates the Christian candidate for president"). AsiaNews spoke to Fr. Cedric Prakash, director of "Prashant", a Jesuit center in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) which deals with human rights, justice and peace. According to the priest, Sangma is a disgrace to Christian values, tribal identity and the Indian Constitution.
How do you respond to Sangma and his statements on the involvement of the BJP in the anti-Christian pogroms in Kandhamal?
This is the typical stand of an opportunist! If Sangma actually cares for the rights and the freedoms of every citizen of India, he would never do this! It will be a very sad day for the country and for the cherished values of democracy, should he be elected to be the President of India. Sangma should carefully go through all the documented evidence on the Kandhamal violence to to realize that there was direct involvement by the Sangh Parivar in the carnage, with the active support of the BJP who were ruling Orissa with the BJD (Biju Janata Dal) at that time. The BJP has also been involved in attacks on Christians and other minorities in Karnataka, Gujarat and other states in the country.
Sangma is being fielded as the BJP presidential candidate. What's your opinion?
Well, this is another sad joke on the country! The BJP had really no one to put as their candidate. And with some of the allies actually supporting the candidate put up by the UPA (United Progressive Alliance, the ruling coalition)...two of their "allies" had already decided to put up Sangma...so the BJP has had literally no choice in the matter!...Putting up another candidate or not supporting Sangma...would really mean that they were just proving themselves to be an absolutely toothless opposition! Besides, in the future they could always say that they supported a "Christian" and a "tribal"...groups which they have consistently demonised and attacked all these years! And surely they will continue their attacks in the future, too.
The BJP has a Hindu nation agenda, and in BJP-ruled states the Sangh Parivar activists terrorize minorities. Will Sangma reconcile these two aspects?
As I said before, Sangma is an opportunist. He really does not care about the Hindutva agenda and what they do to the minorities of the country... in order to have two minutes of "fame"!
What is the status of Tribals in India? Give me your reflections on the Tribal-BJP equation.
The status of tribals all over the country leaves much to be desired in every possible way! Sangma, the self-seeking politician that he is, has hardly taken a stand on tribal issues... The BJP has consistently tried to destroy the tribal identity: by calling them "vanvasis" ("forest dwellers") instead of "adivasis" ("indigenous peoples"). Accepting them as adivasis, everybody knows, would defeat their grand (yet utopian) design of attempting to establish a Hindu nation State.
Does the 2014 general election have any bearing on the BJP support for Sangma?
Not at all! Sangma's utterances and the way he positions himself brings really no credit to him. He dishonors Christian values, the tribal identity and, above all, the Constitution of India.