08/19/2014, 00.00
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For ultranationalists, India is Hindu and its people cannot be secular

by Nirmala Carvalho
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) officials issue new statements to that effect. The head of the paramilitary group says he wants "equality" for the people. For the leader of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), "it is ironic that the RSS should speak of equality, when it has always opposed the struggle for minority rights".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In recent statement, some prominent leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu ultra-nationalist paramilitary group, have said that India is a Hindu country. Only its Constitution and administration are secular, not its people.

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), spoke to AsiaNews about the group's "controversial and fanatical intentions ". In his view, statements by the RSS are contrary to the Indian Constitution.

Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi, nor the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the RSS's political wing, have commented or condemned such views.

The controversy was triggered by RSS president Mohan Bhagwat, who on two occasions stated that "the cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva", and that the objective of the next five years would be to "bring equality" to the people.

Yesterday, the group's spokesman Manmohan Vaidya spoke "in defence" of his boss, explaining that "the Constitution and the administration may be secular, but not the people, for the people belong to different religions."

Political opponents and members of minority groups dispute his claims, pointing out that the Constitution of the country is secular.

"The first sentence in the preamble of our Constitution describes the country as a 'sovereign socialist secular democratic republic'," Sajan George told AsiaNews. "The document guarantees freedom of religion and belief to all citizens, a right that is not respected in many states ruled by the BJP, like Chhattisgarh".

Moreover, said the GCIC president, "it is ironic that the RSS should speak of equality, when it has always opposed the struggle for minority rights, as in the case of Dalits. More than 20 million Dalit Christians are deprived of their privileges because they are not Hindu."

Since 1950, India's Dalits, otherwise known as "untouchables", have been covered by paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order. However, this applies only to Hindus and Buddhists. Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam lose the rights associated with this status, including that of guaranteed political representation.

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See also
Campaign in favour of Christian Dalits meets first success
Human rights violated by extremism as well as religious and social discrimination
Hopes for the rights of Dalit Christians
Hindu Dalits against equality for Christians and Muslims
India's 151st diocese


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