03/02/2005, 00.00
Send to a friend

Christians attacked, BJP administration backs fundamentalists, Bishop of Orissa says

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to discredit the Congress Party. An anti-conversion law is set to be approved in Rajasthan.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – The recent murder of two Protestant clergymen "are cause for concern" and the state authorities' inaction "plays into the hands of Hindu fundamentalists," this according to Mgr Raphael Cheenath, Bishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, a diocese in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, who spoke to AsiaNews.

For several months now, Orissa has seen violent attacks against Christians. In the last two weeks two Protestant clergymen have been murdered. On February 17 Gilbert Raj, a pastor with Missions India, died after being beaten and tortured. Ten days later, Dilip Dalai, a member of the Orissa Follow-Up community, was stabbed to death at his home in Begunia, 60 km from the state capital of Bhubaneswar.

"It is a worrying situation" Bishop Cheenath said. "The Catholic Church and the Protestants have cordial relations and cooperate on social programmes. These attacks are putting at risk the Christian Community at large."

The Bishop has charged the state administration of inaction and complicity with Hindu fundamentalists. "We get no support from the [BJP] government," he stressed. "Christians in Orissa are traumatised by these violent incidents committed by the majority community."

Hindu fundamentalists have not shied away from anti-Christian and anti-Muslim militancy. Residents of Rev Raj's village have in fact already pointed the finger at a Hindu fanatic as the alleged murderer.

"The government must take a firm stand to protect the fundamental rights of the minorities," the Bishop said. But instead, it "follows a policy of 'put-out the fire" whenever instances of violence are reported. The Police and administration dismiss the violence against Christians as 'simple village quarrels'."

Bishop Cheenath is also not very impressed with the professionalism of law enforcement authorities charged with investigating anti-Christian attacks. "We are investigating the case is the authorities' answer," he noted. "But never have Christians received any compensation," he lamented.

"The government is playing the fundamentalists' game and minorities pay the price of Hindu fundamentalist violence," he added. "The apathetic attitude of the state administration encourages the fundamentalists. Its 'put-out the fire' approach does not deter further violence against minorities; on the contrary, it encourages them."

John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Union, an interdenominational Christian organisation that defends the rights of Indian Christians, also condemned the killing of the two Protestant clergymen.

In his view, both murders "reflect the precarious and alarming situation Christians face in Orissa".

"I'm appalled at the deteriorating situation in Orissa," Mr Dayal told AsiaNews. "I've written to Prime Minister [Singh] giving documentary and statistical evidence of the attacks on Christians in the last three months. [And] I have asked for an appointment to brief him of the sentiments of the minority community".

According to him, these attacks on Christians may well be politically motivated. "The evidence points to the fact that in states where the BJP or its allies are in power, the incidence of violence is very high. This may reflect a BJP strategy to discredit the secular Congress-led UPA government.

This said, Mr Dayal also points out that violence against Christians has also occurred in the southern state of Kerala where not only the Congress party rules, but the government itself is headed by a Christian Chief Minister, Mr. Oomen Chandy.

Moreover, "the BJP and its allies are not only turning a blind eye to instances of violence against Christians, [. . .] but now they are keen on legislating it." Recent events in Rajasthan prove it. Here, the BJP wants to introduce an anti-conversion bill which can only fuel further anti-Christian animosity.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Falsely accused priest arrested in Gujarat
Hindu fundamentalists attack Christian meeting in Rajasthan
Priest seriously injured in attack against Catholic Church
Fundamentalist plan behind anti-Christian violence, says Bishop
Hindu fundamentalists injure Christians during screening of 'The Passion of the Christ'


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”