04/06/2006, 00.00
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An anti-Christian plan is being carried out across India, says Catholic activist

After visiting Rajasthan a few days before the local state legislature adopts an anti-conversion bill, All India Catholic Union President John Dayal writes to Prime Minister Singh saying that Christians are no longer victims of random attacks but are targets of a plan to rid the country of its minorities.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – In a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, warns in not so many words that Hindu nationalists are no longer limiting themselves to random attacks against Christians but have prepared a well-thought-out plan that combines terror and intimidation against minorities and that they are currently implementing across the country.

For Mr Dayal, state political and administrative leaders as well as the justice and law enforcement systems are prejudiced against minorities, instilling fear and insecurity amongst ethnic and religious minorities who are forced to live in terrible conditions.

He writes: "You [i.e. Prime Minister] are of course aware of the single-minded pursuit of a communal agenda by the Government of the State of Rajasthan, both in the case of the Emmanuel Mission as also in bringing the so-called Freedom of Religion Bill [sic]."

To illustrate his point, Mr Dayal brought to the prime minister's attention two grave episodes. First, the "naked display of armed might by the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu paramilitary group] in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh" during state elections in defiance of "civil authorities and [. . .] the Arms Act", an act that did not elicit any response by the same authorities despite the fact that Uttar Pradesh is not even governed by India's largest party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who are the RSS's political masters. What would happen, he asks, if the BJP actually ran the state?

Although different in nature, the second episode is even more disquieting and violent. It concerns the confiscation by the state of Gujarat of a leprosarium in Ahmadabad and the sacking of six Catholic nuns in charge of the institution and their eviction from the Ave Maria Convent which was their home for the past 60 years.

The nuns' link to the place dates back to 1949 shortly after independence when Bombay authorities invited a Jesuit clergyman, Father Villalonga, to help stop leprosy in the city of Ahmadabad. With the help of Franciscan sisters from Kumbakonam, led by Sister Naemi, he set out building the facility. The authorities and the local bishop signed a five-year, renewable agreement, setting up a government-funded leprosy hospital.

After 60 years, the nuns' work has become legendary and in all of this time the agreement was always renewed without problems . . . until last month that is.

Dayal explains that whilst the sisters had no reason to suspect anything untoward when the local Health Commission requested a review of the permit, they knew something was really wrong when the government sent them a letter informing them that a lay doctor would take over the management of the facility giving them two days to vacate the convent. In a letter formally announcing that the permit was not being renewed, the Health Commission said that the decision had come from a higher authority.

Even though the "victims are not the nuns, but the hapless patients," writes Dayal, "it is clear why they were sacked, dispossessed of their home and thrown out of the hospital. For their religion! [. . .] A leprosarium is hardly the place for evangelization."

In concluding his appeal, Dayal writes: "Dear Prime Minister, the time has come for a serious look at this pattern of hate against Christians. This is not the average communal riot or victimization which sporadically bursts out, and then dies out. This is a sustained terror campaign against our community, even if each incident is separated from the next in space and time. May I request [. . .] that the Union Government [. . .] consider comprehensive political and administrative measures that send out the correct signals to the guilty, and extend assurances to the victims."

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