INDIA: ATTACK ON CHRISTIANITY REACHES COSMOPOLITAN POCKETS
Fearing conversions, mob damages a church in New Delhi and threatens workers.NEW DELHI,
December 18 (Compass Direct News) – Violence and discrimination against Christians in India is reaching beyond uneducated, rural villages – Hindu extremists are increasingly targeting middle class churches in cosmopolitan centers.
A mob of at least 150 unidentified people damaged a Catholic church under construction in the national capital on December 5, threatening to break the bones of the site foreman and laborers. The attackers told the workers plainly that they feared people would convert to Christianity if the church were built.
They manhandled the foreman, damaged a generator and other machines and scattered building materials.
“They threatened to come again for a repeat performance if their threats were not heeded,” said Dr. Dominic Emmanuel, spokesperson of the Delhi Archdiocese, in a statement. Emmanuel added that parish priest Alphonse D’Cruz had filed a police complaint and sought police protection.
Though Hindu extremism in the area is minimal, Father Henry D’Souza, head of the Commission for Social Communication of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said the attack was not the first time the anti-Christian elements have threatened or harmed area Christians.
“It has become possible because both the executive and the judiciary have failed to bring the culprits to book,” D’Souza said. “One can only wish and pray that sanity and probity in public life will prevail.”
Calling the attack an “extreme manifestation of Christo-phobia,” a member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India said such attacks have occurred “several times in the past.”
“The goons, not without public support and political patronage, have sworn not to allow the Catholic Church to come up in this west Delhi development which has at least four Christian-dominated cooperative group housing societies,” Dr. John Dayal told Compass. “More than a decade ago they chased out church architects from a plot bought from the DDA [Delhi Development Authority]. The alternate plot which is now facing attack has taken a long time for the church to buy from the DDA.”
The police commissioner, demanded Dayal, must immediately provide adequate security so that the church can be rebuilt.
Ascribing the attack to “patent intolerance,” Dayal said the objection to “foreign religion” amounts to a matter of local politics.
“They just do not want ‘alien’ religious structures in their colony, though they have no qualms about permitting illegal temples,” Dayal said. “The objection is political.”
He went on to say that the middle class people did not have misconceptions about Christianity, “but they do swallow the Sangh (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS) rumors that Christians [forcibly] convert, or even otherwise somehow contaminate the cultural environment.”
“This they want to resist in their sense of India as a Hindu country – the Sangh propaganda, which they have swallowed without questioning its fascist argument,” he added.
The RSS is the parent organization of a battery of Hindu extremist groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Forum or VHP) and Bajrang Dal, VHP’s youth wing, which are collectively referred to as Sangh Parivar or Sangh.
The RSS promotes Hindutva, a Hindu nationalistic ideology which demands creation of a nation ruled by those whose ancestors were born in India and who belong to religions that originated in the country, namely Hinduism and its offshoots. It allows religious minorities to live, but in subordination to the majority community.
The RSS, which has a strong base mainly in northern parts of the country and especially among the lower middle class, claims that missionaries use material bribes or force to convert people.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the opposition coalition at the federal level and is in power in several states, is believed to be the political wing of the RSS.
Of late, the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore has become religiously tense. On June 8, a mob of Hindu extremists beat independent pastor Laxmi Narayan Gowda and tried to set him on fire before parading him naked in Hessarghatta, in the suburbs of Bangalore (See Compass Direct News, “Hindu Mob Beats, Strips, Parades Pastor,” June 12).
To influence educated, middle-class people, the RSS has several strategies. The Rediff.com news website notes that the RSS has now set up Information Technology shakha (gatherings) “aimed at grooming IT personnel towards the RSS way of thinking,” mainly in Bangalore, India’s IT hub.
The IT shakha, which takes place on the Internet, is a forum to discuss issues such as “terrorism, conversions and current affairs,” according to Rediff.com news.
“The coordinator of the shakha, Suresh Naik, said that this would involve the stimulation of the mind, and the IT professionals will be taught to have a more nationalistic approach,” the news portal noted on November 12.
The IT wing of the RSS has been sending out messages through social networking sites to its members, who are asked to spread the message, for the past six years.
Across the country, Dayal also pointed out, new townships and urban developments do not provide for non-Hindu sacred spaces in urban planning. Sacred spaces include places of worship, community centers for fairs and festivals, graveyards and new educational and other institutions.
“This is evident in both government planning and private sector urbanization, including elite housing complexes,” he said. “Advertisements may mention clubs, hotels, and even hospitals. These days, they also speak of satsang (gathering for a Hindu worship) rooms and temples with their herbal gardens and so on.
“Municipal authorities leave space for cremation grounds for Hindus and Sikhs. But seldom is there a place for other faiths.”