A group of former civil servants on Saturday, 4 March, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking assurance to ensure equal and unbiased treatment for Christians, like all other Indians, from the executive and law.
They pointed to the increasing incidents of discrimination against Christians in the country. The group called itself the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), and its 93 members have signed the letter to Modi.
Some of the signatories included Najeeb Jung (former lieutenant governor of Delhi), SY Quraishi (former chief election commissioner), and P Joy Oommen (former chief secretary of Chhattisgarh).
The group averred that violence could be stopped immediately with “just a word” from the BJP’s top leaders, the Union, and state governments.
“As former civil servants, we also know that silence will beget more violence,” the group wrote in the letter.
However, the group alleged that the hatred has been ignored as persons behind it are appointed to high offices, including the judiciary.
Debunk allegations of forcible conversion
The group said the main allegation against the Christian community is that of forcible conversion, even though its population has been remaining around 2.3 percent since the 1951 census.
They added that because of the accusation of conversions, Christians and their institutions are targeted verbally, physically, and psychologically.
“It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves,” the CCG wrote.
The group mentioned the contributions of Christians to education and health sectors and social reforms. “It is an acknowledged fact that the role of Christians in building our nation has been immense.
“The participation and leadership of Christians in the civil services as well as in the armed forces stand testimony to the community’s national commitment. Thirty percent of nurses in India are Christians,” the group claimed.
It added that India has been home to Christianity since the first century CE, long before it was introduced to many countries that are now predominantly Christian.
Recent attacks on Christians
The group noted that recently churches and homes of tribal and Dalit Christians have been destroyed, graveyards desecrated, and educational and health institutions attacked, besides terrorising prayer gatherings.
“These attacks have happened primarily in Chhattisgarh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra,” the CCG said.
Citing the United Christian Forum, the CCG claimed that the attacks on Christians increased from 279 in 2020 to 505 in 2021 and to 511 till October 2022.
“In August 2022, under the influence of Hindu extremist groups, more than a thousand tribal Christians were banished from their villages in Narayanpur and Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh because they refused to be converted to the Hindu faith,” the group said.
Again, on 2 January, 2023, a mob of 50 people barged into a church in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district and vandalised it, attacking even the police superintendent and other officers who tried to control the situation,” the group wrote, adding that a BJP leader was even arrested in the incident.
Another incident, the CCG said was in January 2023. “A group of 40 goondas (goons), owing allegiance to a Hindutva outfit, accused the teachers of a Catholic school travelling from Gujarat to Belagavi of trying to convert people to Christianity,” it said.
The group added that a few days ago, a sadhu (sage) called for the slaughter of Muslims and Christians at a “dharma sansad” (religious gathering) at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
PM is of all people
The group reminded that the state is duty-bound to safeguard the religious minorities and the secular character of the country. However, the state is not doing so, the CCG alleged.
“As prime minister of our country, and of all its people including Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities, and as a leading member of the BJP, we ask you to speak out against these outrageous acts, and to ensure that the police and other officials prevent such incidents from recurring. Christians, today, and, all other minorities, need to be reassured that they are not lesser citizens of India than their Hindu brethren,” the letter read.
The CCG said hate speeches have serious consequences leading to violence and riots. “These, together with the various anti-conversion laws, intimidate and create a climate of fear among Christians and marginalise them,” it wrote.
It claimed that the same might not be the case in north-east India with its well-organised Christian communities. “But it (atrocities against Christians) exhibits itself repeatedly in the rest of the country to achieve partisan political gains.”