Concern mounts in India over persecution of religious minorities

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Elise Harris

New Delhi, India, Dec 19, 2014 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The rise in attacks by Hindu radicals against members of minority religions in India, primarily Christians and Muslims, is drawing concern across the country, with many calling for more concrete government action.

Since May, there have been a “recorded 34 cases of physical and structural violence against the Christian community (among a) total of about 600 cases reported by the media, most of them against Muslims,” Dr. John Dayal told CNA Dec. 12.

“The violence has increased exponentially since then. The government has admitted in parliament that there have been more than 560 cases of violence against religious minorities this year, in which at least 110 persons have been killed,” he said, noting that there have probably been more cases which have gone unreported.

Dayal, a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council and former National President of the India Catholic Union, said most of the violence has been incited by the radical Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, also referred to as the RSS, or the “the Sangh.”

The group, which Dayal referred to as an “extremely fundamentalist and often violent political organization,” sits on the right-wing and has no official, legal registration in India. However they maintain strong ties with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

BBC News reports that the RSS, established in 1925 with the goal of establishing “Hindutva,” or “Hindu-ness,” has been banned three times in post-independence India, with all three bans eventually being lifted.

The agency states that the group’s critics often refer to them as a sectarian, militant group, who believe in the supremacy of Hindus, and that “preaches hate” against Muslim and Christian minorities.

Among the violent acts carried out against minorities are the barring of Christians from entering certain Hindu villages in India’s Chhattisgarh state, attacks against persons and church property, and the forced conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

When Christians of the Madota village were summed by local officials to an October meeting in order to discuss the resolution of the bans in their district, none of the officials showed up, the Christian Daily reports.

After waiting some time, a group of Hindu extremists entered the village and started to beat 15 of the persons gathered, sending 12 to the hospital, seven of whom had serious injuries.

Reports were also made of an arson on a Catholic church in the Indian capital of Dehli.

Concern has arisen that the increasing number of attacks enacted by the RSS are on the rise due to the May election of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister. Having been a full-time worker with the group, many are concerned that Modi is giving them a free pass.

Although Modi has been informed of the incidents on numerous occasions, he “has given no indication by word or deed that he means to curb these elements and non-state actors and their hostility toward religious minorities,” Dayal explained.

“Despite our several appeals to him in recent weeks, (Mr. Modi) has remained silent on attacks in churches in Delhi and Chhattisgarh (and) the forcible conversion of Muslims in several villages of the state of Uttar Pradesh by members of the RSS group,” he said, noting that the “conversions” were taped, and have dominated local and national news outlets.

Earlier this week, police in Uttar Pradesh stated they would not allow Hindu nationalists to hold a conversion ceremony which had been planned for Dec. 25.

The ceremony was to be held in Aligarh, which is located within 60 miles of Agra, where last week more than 50 impoverished Muslim families were “converted” to Hinduism. Many of them told the BBC they were promised food ration cards for attending the ceremony, and they did not realize it was a conversion ceremony.

While Hindus are a majority in India (80 percent), the country is not a Hindu state, Dayal observed, noting that often times laws are spun in order to protect the actions of radical groups.

The RSS, he said, “thinks it is all powerful, and that the government will not act against them.” When it comes to punishing their crimes, Dayal noted that police never seem to find the evidence necessary to penalize them in court.

“Witnesses are coerced. And forensic science is given a go by. The State just does not seem to want to act against them.”

In order to maintain an inter-religious society that respects the rights of its minorities a strong rule of law is needed, Dayal said, explaining that this includes giving minorities greater representation in police forces, courts and higher bureaucratic positions.

“The government must not, by word or deed, give an impression that it supports these Hindu groups. There indeed must be a zero tolerance policy against religious targeted violence and hate speech.”

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