New Delhi (AsiaNews) Rajasthan is "dominated by Nationalists who, by all accounts, support the most frustrated and violent Hindu fundamentalists". This was the charge made in a reported presented by John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. In the report that followed a visit to this eastern Indian state, Dayal asked that "justice be allowed to take its course, without interference from fundamentalists", who aim to clear all Christians out of the state "as soon as possible".
The investigation was prompted by repeated attacks against the Emmanuel Mission, an independent Christian organization that has looked after orphans and sick people for more than 30 years. The mission has been shut down and its management staff imprisoned because of false accusations. "The true victims of this umpteenth attack against Christians are not the mission staff, however much they may have suffered. They are the orphans, sick people and lepers who are no longer cared for".
We publish the full text of Dayal's letter to the Prime Minister, a copy of which was sent to AsiaNews.
Dear Prime Minister, the main reason to write to you at this stage is to bring to your notice the very volatile communal situation in the state, and not just against Christians. It is obvious that the Rajasthan State government machinery including the Justice system, and the Civil and law and order administration, are overwhelmed by political pressure from the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP, India's largest political party with fundamentalist-Nationalist leanings], whose members roam free offering large sums of money for the murder of Archbishop M A Thomas or while they strangle his orphanages and schools by summarily rescinding their registrations without even giving them time to react. All the hreads speak of a conspiracy aggressively executed by nationalist groups.
The community feels threatened.
I fear violence can flare up at any time and anywhere, beginning with Kota. Already several incidents have taken place against the Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical communities which constitute the entirety of the Church in the State. It could be said that while the Emmanuel Mission may be the immediate symbol and victim of a State conspiracy is against the Christian faith and its work with the people and marginalized groups.
Ten years ago, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, a paramilitary formation of extremist Hindus) threatened to make the district of Banswara "Free of Christians by 2000 AD". They failed to do so at that time. They are trying very hard to carry out their promise now.
We seek your intervention in this emergency. As member of the National Integration Council and head of two major Church organizations, the Catholic Union and the Christian Council, I visited Kota, Jaipur and surrounding areas from 18th to 20th March 2006, with a an investigative group, for a first hand experience and assessment of the situation of the persecution of our people and institutions. My colleagues on the team were distinguished persons, including Sr. Mary Scaria, an advocate of the Supreme Court and secretary of the Justice and Peace commission of the Catholic Delhi Archdiocese, the Rev Madhu Chandra, Delhi region secretary of the All India Christian Council and two independent journalists.
We visited Kota extensively and also had a feel of the communal situation in the townships en route, including Bundi and the state capital of Jaipur. We also went through the entire coverage in Hindi and English in all the newspapers in the state relating to the recent as well as earlier anti-Christian incidents. We met the local authorities and several Christian leaders, priests, heads of Orphanages and hospitals, patients and ordinary people. Among them were both Hindus and Muslims,
For the sake of brevity, I have cut my report and submit to you into five points and an introduction, for each pleading your attention and concern.
The conspiracy against the Emmanuel Mission began in 2002 when the BJP came to power in Rajasthan. Christian orphanages and hospitals were shut down, their bank accounts were frozen, and people working there were sent away. The worst consequences were faced by he inmates of these institutions.
The situation got out of hand with the action taken against the Archbishop and his son Rev Samuel Thomas, Samuel, later arrested in Uttar Pradesh. Every day, one could read attacks in the press against them, attacks forming part of a daily denigration campaign orchestrated by Hindu nationalists, who are left free to offer rewards for the head of the Protestant leader.
All this started with a book called Haqeekat, said to have been published by the mission headed by Thomas, which allegedly included passages injuring the religious sentiments of devout Hindus.
1. As Dr Joseph D Souza, President of the All India Christian Council and I had told you and other Central government leaders in our earlier letter, frustrated religious fundamentalist and hyper-nationalist groups of the Sangh Parivar have targeted Christians. Rajasthan, Gujarat and Orissa have been at the top of our areas of maximum concern, with Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka close behind. The provincial administrations and particularly the education and police in all these states are under the control of the BJP. All these states have sizeable populations of Dalits and indigenous or tribal people who have historically shown an abiding interest in the life and message of Jesus. Despite a reign of terror by the nationalists in these areas, Christians remain, even in Banswara. Kota, with its history of tension between Muslims and Hindus, which seems to be the likely tinder box for future tension and possible violence. The fact that the Emmanuel Mission is active in this city makes them the logical target. However, even schools and a leprosy hospital run by Catholic nuns have been targeted. Is a leprosy mission a threat to security, or to any religion? Is a leprosy clinic a forum for conversion?
2. The Conspiracy against the Emmanuel Mission: Archbishop M A Thomas has been active in Kota for more than 30 years. His is an independent mission with a clearcut charism: caring for orphans and running schools and hospitals for them. Although he is not part of the Catholic Church and not affiliated with any of the Protestant Churches and works independently of them, he is popular with the people and his record of service has led to the government awarding him the Padma Shree three years ago. But despite this, he continues to invite hostile attention. As soon as the BJP came to power in 2002, clandestine enquiries were launched against all his institutions. He was subjected to criminal inquiries and financial audits by the department dealing with the registration of societies and charitable organizations. In all these years, he has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing. Now suddenly, without notice, his organizations have been shut and their bank accounts stand frozen. This has led to a shortage of resources for the orphanages. We were told that for three days, food in the orphanages had to be cooked on a wood fire because they ran out of cooking gas. In the hospital, patients could not be treated because police on guard threatened that if any one was treated, the staff would be arrested and the hospital closed down. Inmates included children suffering from tuberculosis, including one in a coma.
3. The Thomas family itself is terrorized. Non-bailable warrants were issued against the father, son and their senior staff; some were arrested because of this controversial book that offends Hindus. Without going into the merits of the case, it is obvious that the justice delivery machinery was under great political pressure. Samuel Thomas was arrested in Noida under shady circumstances, and it was only police action that saved him from being lynched. He is now safe in police custody, but there is much to be said about the place where he has been detained. A notice is pasted at his door declaring his father to be an absconder.
4 The lack of action against fanatical activists, who offer awards for the murder links between the Sangh Parivar and the authorities. I am attaching herewith a copy of a press cutting highlighting the murder order. It smacks of what Al Qaeda does. And the law looks on silently,.
5. The controversy of the book Haqeekat. The book has been banned, so we have not seen a copy. However, I have read excerpts in the RSS weekly Panchjanya. The law must take its course against the author and translator, but the fact that the book was found in premises owned by the Mission does not mean the Mission or its founder were the authors. Anyhow, by the same measure, the former minister Arun Shourie, the late BJP writer Sita Ram Goel, and many a Sangh professor ought to be prosecuted for their writings on Christianity and Chrstians, apart from senior BJP leaders who hurt the sentiments of Muslims on a daily basis.
Dear Prime Minister, our preliminary enquiry shows grave miscarriage of justice, and connivance between the authorities and Nationalistic activists. But the immediate victims are not the Emanuel mission or even the Thomas family, much as they have suffered. The victims are the 2,200 orphans, patients, and leprosy victims and others. Let the law take its due course without political pressure and without interference from officials.