New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Hindutva inspired sectarian violence and fundamentalism reared their ugly head again this week, despite condemnation from the Indian president and various Indian intellectuals.
In one instance, Hindu radicals attacked an activist with ink as he made his way to a book launch by a former Pakistani Foreign Minister. In another, police officers arrested three Pentecostal Christians on false charges of forced conversions and then slapped and kicked them whilst they were in their custody.
Hindutva (Hindu-ness) is an ideology that seeks to define Indian identity, culture and politics in terms of Hindu religious values. This has led its proponents to perpetrate acts of violence and discrimination against India’s ethnic and religious minorities.
Many analysts have expressed concern at the rise of "hate speech" related to this ideology, which the government of Prime Minister Modi uses to fuel racial hatred in the country.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former ideologue with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and president of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), was attacked yesterday in Mumbai (Maharashtra).
Shiv Sena extremists threw ink at him as he left home on his way to the launch of Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider's Account of Pakistan's Foreign Relations, by Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, former Foreign Minister of Pakistan.
The activist, who went to the meeting with his clothes and face still covered in ink (pictured), condemned the attack as "an assault against democracy" and reiterated the recent call by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to defend and respect the values of "tolerance, diversity and pluralism."
Despite the public outrage and condemnation, a spokesman for Shiv Sena (a Marathi and Hindu nationalist party, allied to the BJP government) called the attack "a non-violent protest", adding that Maharashtra "is known for its patriotism and national defence [against Pakistan], and Shiv Sena is doing its job promptly."
The party is also known for its violence and intimidation against Muslims (i.e. the demolition of the Babri mosque and forcing a Muslim man to break his fast during Ramadan).
In another case last week, the three Pentecostal Christians arrested as they taught religion classes in Satna District, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, filed a complaint against the police who held them in custody.
According to the missionaries, about 15 police officers detained them for alleged forced conversions and took them to a police station. Here, they were savagely beaten in front of their accusers, members of the Hindu ultranationalists Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Hindu ultra-nationalist paramilitary group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"They were humiliated by the same people who were tasked to protect them,” Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews.
“The officers banged their heads against a wall, slapped them in the face, kicked them and hit them with lathis (wooden sticks). Instead of acting as protectors, police have become persecutors,” George explained.
Sadly, “Christians are denied freedom of religion, and are treated as second-class citizens. The criminal behavior of law enforcement officers is a shame and a disgrace for India," the GCIC president lamented.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article.)