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2022

Federal government appears bent on cornering minority community on issues of land and properties besides conversion An Indian Supreme Court order on Sept 26 seeking a government response to a petition that pleaded for strict action against “religious conversion through fraud and intimidation” will not translate immediately into a national law against conversions to Christianity and Islam. The general allegory among those who accuse Christians of converting through fraud and allurement is that missionaries use their educational and health services to attract and trap poor Hindus and tribal people. The church is possibly right in steeling itself for government action on various fronts. At the top of its apprehensions is the government seeking a greater role in running educational institutions, and possible revocation of British-era land leases on which these are built. Places of worship — India has some majestic and historic cathedrals, churches, and hilltop chapels — may perhaps not be threatened for fear of international rebuke. But the process of safeguarding the land and buildings could take years of court battles and hundreds of millions of rupees in legal fees. The clamor for action, as well as the threat to church lands, comes in the wake of a sustained political campaign that began

For much of September, Leicester in the United Kingdom saw sporadic bouts of communal tension between Hindus and Muslims. The incident, while unfortunate, was purely a local law and order issue that the city police handled. Unusually, because of the charged communal situation in India, the issue became the focus of prime time television debates in India. A UK journalist pointed out that communal programming by India’s pro-government news channels, already under criticism for pushing hate, had “completely distorted” the events in Leicester. This mainstream media programming was driven by intense social media interest in India about these faraway events. A BBC investigation estimated that half of the tweets about tensions in Leicester actually originated from India. Much of the communal messaging that pushed hashtags such as #HindusUnderAttack displayed “classic signs” of “inauthentic activity, ie a likelihood that individuals are deliberately using multiple accounts to push a narrative”. The BBC singled out OpIndia, the Hindutva website based in India, for spreading misinformation around Leicester. Representing Hindutva, not India However, what was truly odd about this narrative over Leicester was that the government of India soon barged into the conversation. On September 19, the Indian High Commission in the United Kingdom issued an official statement

Hindu nationalists hail the murderers of Christians such as the killer of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his sons The Christian community in India remembers Jan. 22, 1999, as the day Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines, who worked with leprosy patients in Odisha, and his young sons Timothy and Philip, were burned alive. It was on that day that the Western world really came face to face with the violence being meted out to the minuscule religious minority by the Hindutva extremist groups collectively known as the Sangh Parivar. The trio was sleeping in their jeep in a clearing in the Manourharpur-Baripada forest when they were surrounded by a mob led by Dara Singh, a local chief of the militant Bajrang Dal, who had gained a reputation as the scourge of cattle traders driving their animals through forest roads in the state on the east coast of India. Dara Singh had earlier slain a man called Rahman, a Muslim cattle trader. The Staines family massacre remained international news, both in the West and especially in his home country, Australia, for a long time. The triple deaths were horrendous. The father and sons had been set on fire as they slept. As the flames

Mangaluru, Sept 20,2022: The Karnataka government has announced that it would include teachings of the Bhagavad Gita as part of moral education in schools from December this year. B C Nagesh, the state’s primary and secondary education minister, said the government has amended its earlier proposal to introduce Gita as a separate subject in schools and decided to teach it as part of moral education. However, some section of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has objected to introducing the Hindu scripture only as part of moral education and not as a separate topic in syllabus. However, Nagesh said the government has already appointed an expert panel to give their recommendations and suggestions after consulting with various stakeholders. The minister also hinted that some historical mistakes will be corrected in the textbooks like the lesson on Baba Dudangiri, a holy place of Muslims in Chikmagaluru to ‘Inam Dattatreya Peeta,’ a Hindu pilgrim center in the same hills. The text books will have more information on some local kings and their kingdoms too, he added. Last year, several school days were disrupted on account of the hijab row by Muslim girls and attacks on some Christian schools for propagating Christian principles in schools. Father Faustine Lobo, the spokesperson

They want nothing less than the abolition of discrimination based on religious bias and bigotry Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, as the powerful chair of the United Progressive Alliance that ruled India some years ago, once told a small, but high-level, Catholic delegation she met at her official residence, that the best chance “for Dalit Christians getting their rights is in the courts.” “I cannot help you. No political party can," Gandhi said and she was right. The men in white cassocks looked crestfallen. Earlier, Gandhi had been told by a senior Christian leader and federal minister that were she to agree, there would be aggressive opposition not just from the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or from the upper caste men from within the Congress, but also from Hindu Dalits, within and outside the ruling group. Upper caste Hindus see the Dalit issue as an existential threat. Over the years they have also convinced Dalit leaders across the political spectrum that any concessions given to those now professing the Christian or Muslim faith, would cost them dearly. Dalits who remain Hindus — Sikhs and Buddhists are also deemed to be Hindus or “Indic” — get a 15 percent reserved quota in parliament and state legislatures,

New Delhi, Sept 19, 2022: The federal government’s reported move to set up a national commission to study the socioeconomic and educational status of Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam will prolong the issue of granting reservation to the poorest in the country, bemoan Christian activists. The national media on September 19 reported that the government was all set to constitute the commission. Franklin Caesar Thomas, coordinator of the National Council of Dalit Christians, and John Dayal, a veteran journalist and activist, say several commissions and committees set up by previous governments have endorsed the socio-educational backwardness of Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin people. “The government is repeating what was done two decades ago by retired chief justice of India Ranganath Misra commission, Justice Rajender Sachar commission and a high powered committee led by Prof Satish Deshpande who found religion did not matter where social status of Dalits in India was concerned,” Dayal told Matters India. Dalits, he added, deserved affirmative action irrespective of religion. Article 341 part three discriminated against Pasmanda Muslims and Dalit Christians, he added. Franklin cited several government commissions and committees and studies that have found the socioeconomic and educational backwardness among Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam. They included the

Religious choices are best left to the individual while ensuring the rule of law and constitutional guarantees The situation is tense in India’s northern state of Punjab bordering Pakistan where militant Sikh religious groups continue to put pressure on churches and prayer halls of Catholics, independent churches, and itinerant pastors working among Dalit communities in outlying western districts. Both communities are minorities in the Hindu-majority nation, but Punjab has a large Sikh community and a tiny Christian population. At last count in 2011, Sikhs were about 57.6 percent, Hindus 38.4 percent, Muslims1.93 percent, and Christians 1.2 percent. Efforts at rapprochement have not picked up real traction with the National Minorities Commission actively using institutional muscle on behalf of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was routed in the last legislative assembly elections in Punjab. The BJP once ruled Punjab in a coalition with the Shiromani Akali Dal, representing the Sikhs, but the coalition broke up on the issue of the contentious farm laws introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The farmers’ protest and the long siege of the national capital New Delhi forced Modi to withdraw the laws, but it was too late. The state elections saw the Delhi-based Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)

The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 has already been passed in the state Legislative Assembly. The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, was passed in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in December. However, it was not tabled in the Legislative Council, as BJP at the time had 32 seats in the Legislative Council – six short of the majority mark. The party now has 41 members in the Upper House. The Karnataka Cabinet had then decided to pass an Ordinance to get a clearance for the Bill. An Ordinance is a temporary law passed by the president or a governor when Parliament or a state Assembly is not in session. The ordinance was cleared by Karnataka Governor Thawarchand Gehlot on September 17. It was then required to be approved by the Assembly within six months or it will cease to be in effect. The Karnataka anti-conversion bill says that “conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage’’ is prohibited. Under the Bill, a person who engages in “forced conversion” will be punished with three to five years imprisonment. Forced conversions of members from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities will lead to

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore says he will disclose stance on Karnataka’s latest anti-conversion law in court. Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore had a guarded response a day after the provincial government in India’s southern state of Karnataka gave its final seal of approval to a law criminalizing religious conversions. The state’s Legislative Council or upper house passed the contentious Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill with a majority vote on Sept. 15. The anti-conversion law was already in force after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state, promulgated an ordinance on May 17 with the signature of the state governor after it failed to muster enough support in the Legislative Council, whose final sanction is a must for any law to come into force. The law was passed by the state Legislative Assembly last December but the BJP was one seat short of a majority in the 75-member upper house. Having mustered up enough numbers now, it went ahead in what is perceived as a well-planned political strategy. The ordinance now stands repealed or canceled with the passage of the bill within six months of the governor issuing it, as required under the Indian Constitution. The opposition Congress and Janata

It is not that Indian churches are without their problems. But Dilip Mandal is wrong to use proselytisation as the yardstick to measure Indian Christianity. Periodically, experts of mainstream media come up with theories on why Christianity is a “failed project” in India. Recently, senior journalist and author Dilip Mandal put forth the argument that Christianity has no future in India and, therefore, there is no reason for the Rashtriya Swayamevak Sangh or the Vishva Hindu Parishad to spread false alarm or panic about the proselytising capacity of Christian missionaries. Mandal also points out that the Christian population in India is either static or dwindling. Mandal is, obviously, not open to recognising the idea that conversion was not the main purpose of the educational, medical and social work of Christian missions in India. Compassion International, a Christian organisation mentioned by him, in a detailed statement pointed out that their sole purpose in India was social outreach. And no official complaint of conversion has been filed against organisations such as Compassion International. Dilip Mandal’s severe criticism that the Christian missionary’s work in India became “a tool for Brahmins and elites” seems baseless. He argues that the failure of Christianity in the early centuries in

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