12/17/2010, 00.00
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For Rahul Gandhi, Hindu radicals are India’s greatest threat

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Congress party secretary general expresses such concerns to the US ambassador. For him, Hindu radicals are more dangerous than support to Islamist Lashkar-e-Taiba. Fr Cedric Prakash of the Prashant human rights centre speaks on the issue.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Hindu radicalism is India’s greatest threat, Congress Party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi told US ambassador in Delhi, this according to the latest WikiLeaks revelations. Gandhi is quoted as telling US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer last year that "the growth of radicalised Hindu groups" may be a "bigger threat" to India than support to some Islamic terror groups from the Muslim community. Although "there was evidence of some support for (Islamic terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba among certain elements in India's indigenous Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community”.

Fr Cedric Prakash agrees with Rahul Gandhi. For the Jesuit priest, who heads Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, “One of the main concerns of the country since the 1920s has been the emergence of rightwing Hindu fundamentalists. The effects of fundamentalism are greatly felt in the Indian subcontinent as Hindu extremism is propagated by the exponents of the Hindutva ideology,” the clergyman said. “The Hindutva strategy is clear: Attack the other minority religions like Christianity and Islam, create the boggy of fear, suspicion and terror and thus win the average Hindu to their side.”

The destruction of Babri Masjid (mosque) and the Gujarat massacres are the latest examples of growing Hindu extremism, Fr Cedric Prakash said. “The more violent the act, the more adherents they seem to have for their brand of fundamentalism”.

The “Sangh group was responsible for the assassination of the Mahatma Gandhi,” he noted. “Over the years, Saffron (Hindu nationalist) groups have infiltrated various sectors of society, including the educational system, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police and most obviously the political sphere, resulting in a polarisation in the name of religion in several parts of the country like Orissa, Karnataka and Gujarat.”

The growth in fundamentalism in the 1990s has had major consequences. “The infiltration of Hindutva ideology has permeated various levels of main stream society. This is alarming. Consequently in various places in India, minority communities suffer a second class citizenship status in spite of the Constitution of our Secular India,” Fr Prakash explained.

“The constitution guarantees religious freedom for all Indians,” Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews. However, “seven Indian states—Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh—have anti-conversion laws. Hindu extremists are using the anti-conversion laws to falsely accuse Christians of converting people by force or enticement. This way they can justify attacking Christians.”

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