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Groups oppose adverts that question orthodox traditions or refer to religious minorities India's biggest festive season is in full swing but top brands are under pressure from right-wing hardliners accusing them of hurting Hindu sentiments. Critics say an atmosphere of growing religious intolerance and fear since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 is behind the rise in social media vitriol and physical attacks on minority groups. Clothes and furniture retailer FabIndia and wellness firm Dabur had to pull adverts in the busy shopping period ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights later this week. Household name FabIndia triggered a storm of abuse online for using an Urdu term, "Jash-e-Rivaaz" ("celebration of tradition"), to describe its latest festive collection. Urdu is one of India's 22 official languages but uses a Persian-Arabic script and is considered a "Muslim language". While Urdu originated in India, which is home to nearly 200 million Muslims, it is also the national language of bitter rival Pakistan. Many devout Hindus believe it should not be used for their rituals and festivals. Others were outraged that women featured in the advert were not wearing a bindi, a decorative design with religious significance often adorned by Hindu women on their

HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Pastor Raj Masih and his three children have not been able to return home to their village in eastern India since Sept. 28, when Hindu extremists attacked him. “I returned home bruised that night. My children saw me and were frightened,” Pastor Masih told Morning Star News. “Since we lost my wife to COVID-19 in April this year, I am all they have.” The 36-year-old pastor was at a market about half a mile from his home in Simri village, Bihar state when about 25 Hindu extremists surrounded him. After taking him away from onlookers, they told him to stop leading worship services as they kicked and punched him, he said. “For the first time in the nine years of ministry in Simri, I took this extreme step of taking a break from Lord’s work there,” Masih told Morning Star News. “My children, ages 12, 9 and 7, have missed their school for more than a month now, but I thought it is enough if I am alive for them. I need to care and provide for them.” Pastor Masih said the assailants seized him by his clothes and forced him out of the market where he was

Q&A: ‘Religious freedom conditions in India greatly concerning’ Al Jazeera speaks to US Commission on International Religious Freedom chair Nadine Maenza on deteriorating religious freedom in India and how Biden administration should address it. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Nadine Maenza [Courtesy: USCIRF] 28 Oct 2021 Boston, United States – In April this year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal government commission, recommended India be placed on a religious freedom blacklist for the second year in a row. In its annual report for 2021 (PDF), the commission, which makes religious freedom and foreign policy recommendations to the US president, the US Congress, and the Department of State, called for India, the world’s largest democracy, to be designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for “egregious religious freedom violations”. Hate campaign in India against Urdu for being a ‘Muslim’ language Kashmir students who cheered for Pakistan booked under terror law ‘To dehumanise, terrorise us’: Muslims evicted in India’s Assam ‘Shown their place’: Muslim livelihoods under attack in India India shares the CPC list with 14 other countries, which include Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Syria, Russia, Vietnam and Turkmenistan. The report also recommended

October 27, 2021 - Archbishop Cornelio's appeal comes as persecution spreads across the country amid political silence. A Catholic Church leader has sought the intervention of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contain violence against minorities, especially Christians, amid reports of rising persecution. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, based in the capital of central India's Madhya Pradesh state, wrote a letter to Modi asking him “to take effective steps to contain rising violence against Christians.” Christians make up 2.3 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population, who are mostly Hindus. Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supports the hardline idea of making India a nation of Hindu dominance, which Christian leaders say results in Hindu activists violently opposing religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims. The archbishop’s Oct. 26 letter came five days after civil rights groups released a fact-finding report on persecution that documented rising violence against Christians, especially from right-wing Hindu groups. Christians faced persecution in 21 of 28 Indian states, most of them ruled by Modi’s BJP party, the report said. Now even our prayer meetings are termed as religious conversion ceremonies and false cases are registered against the faithful “Very recently certain individuals and groups have stepped up a hate campaign against minority groups,

Satna, Oct 25, 2021: Rightwing Hindu activists on October 25 served a 15-day ultimatum to Catholic school in the central Indian state Madhya Pradesh state to install in the campus an idol of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. A 30-member delegation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal (Party of the stout and strong) met Father Augustine Chittuparambil, manager of Christ Jyoti Senior Secondary School in Satna district headquarters, to make the demand through a memorandum. They gave the priest 15 days to comply with their demand or face protests in front of the school. “The Hindu activists came to our school and wanted us to install an idol of goddess Saraswati in the campus,” Father Chittuparambil told Matters India. The radicals forced the priest to give in writing that he had received their memorandum that he accepted at the school’s main gate. The Hindu activists left the place with a warning to come back in case the school failed to comply with their demand. “They claim that the school was built at a place where the idol of goddess Saraswati had existed,” the priest explained. He pointed out that the school was built 49 years ago and no one had made such

The new probe comes after a court exonerated Cardinal George Alencherry of several charges linked to land deals A federal agency has initiated a probe against Cardinal George Alencherry, head of India’s Syro-Malabar Church, on money-laundering charges which a church official said were part of a conspiracy to tarnish the church and its leader. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which probes financial crimes, has started investigating the dealings of Cardinal Alencherry in connection with the sale of church land that reportedly resulted in a financial loss to the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. “The ED move to probe the cardinal is no doubt an attempt to target him and tarnish the image of the church,” said Father Abraham Kavilpurayidam, the spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church. The cardinal is the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Kerala state that has some five million members in India and abroad. Father Kavilpurayidam told UCA News on Oct. 25 that the latest move against the cardinal comes after a local court exonerated him and a special police team in Kerala found no basis to the allegations. “A special team of Kerala police’s Crime Branch probed all the allegations thoroughly and gave him a clean chit”

IN A VIDEO FILMED IN THE STATE OF CHHATTISGARH, THE SWAMI PARMATMANAND, IN THE PRESENCE OF LOCAL BJP LEADERS, SAYS: "IN OUR VILLAGES WE KEEP HATCHETS AT HOME". DIVINE WORD MISSIONARY FR JOSPEH: "EVERY LIMIT HAS BEEN EXCEEDED" Raipur (AsiaNews) - "Behead all those who come to convert you". In a shocking video circulating on social networks, the Parmatmanand swami, a Hindu religious leader in the State of Chhattisgarh, shows no qualms in calling for beheadings to resolve an alleged "wave" of conversions to Christianity. According to the Indian website The Wire, the speech, which openly calls for violence, was delivered during a demonstration "against conversions" held in the district of Surguja. Prominent figures from the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were also present on stage at the event. The video shows the former chairman of the National Commission for the Disadvantaged Castes, Nand Kumar Sai, applauding the words of the swami Parmatmanand. In his disconcerting speech, the Hindutva exponent says: "Keep the sticks in your home. People in the cities don't, but in our villages people keep hatchets. Behead them when they come to perform religious conversions". He added: "You may wonder why a holy man

ARCHBISHOP MACHADO TELLS KARNATAKA GOVERNMENT CHIEF THAT THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WILL OPPOSE IT TOOTH AND NAIL Archbishop Peter Machado, president of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops' Council, has said that the Christian community will not rest until a draconian order for surveying missionaries in the southern Indian state is withdrawn. In a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the prelate appealed to him to call off the survey ordered by the state’s department for backward classes and minorities' welfare. He further urged the chief minister to also put off the Karnataka government’s plan to enact an anti-conversion law as it would trigger more violence and harassment of the beleaguered Christian community. "We continue to register our firm opposition to the proposed bill and oppose it tooth and nail," he added. The decision to conduct a survey was taken on Oct. 13 after ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Goolihatti Shekhar alleged that his mother had converted to Christianity and he was being threatened by missionaries. Church leaders in Karnataka have denied his charges while also expressing the fear that the “false bogey” of conversion could lead to churches being attacked and vandalized. Archbishop Machado reminded Bommai of their meeting on Sept. 22 where a delegation

Human rights groups which monitor atrocities against Christians in India have documented the violence by Hindutva groups from all states and released a fact-finding report on Thursday. New Delhi: On October 3, more than 200 unidentified men and women, allegedly belonging to local right-wing groups, vandalised a church in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, and attacked several people, including women, assembled there for prayers on a Sunday. No action has been taken in the case yet, despite assurances. The spate of such incidents of hate crimes, mob violence against Christians only seems to be increasingly compounded by rallies and slogans against the community based on triggering fears and anxieties over ‘religious conversions’. Human rights groups which monitor atrocities against Christians in India have documented the violence by Hindutva groups from all states and released a fact-finding report titled ‘Christians under attack in India’. The report highlights that over 300 such instances have been reported from across 21 states, particularly North India, in nine months of this year. The report was released in Delhi on October 21, Thursday, by the Association of Protection Civil Rights, United Christian Forum and United against Hate at a press conference. Speaking at the press conference, A.C. Michael, the former member of Delhi Minorities

A pastor of a Protestant church was held by the police after a mob of pro-Hindu activists barged into a church in the Indian state of Karnataka and began singing bhajans or Hindu devotionals as a protest against alleged forced religious conversions. A video clip of the incident reported from Hubbali town on Oct. 17 showed activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, forcibly entering Bairidevarkoppa Church and singing devotionals. Pastor Somu Avaradhi and some of his associates reportedly sustained minor injuries in a scuffle but Arvind Bellad, a local member of the legislative assembly belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), blocked a highway along with his supporters demanding their arrest. Local media reported both the groups claiming they were attacked. The pro-Hindu activists in their complaint charged the pastor with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.” Pastor Avaradhi was held by the police but let free after questioning. The church's authorities too filed a complaint on Oct. 18. City Police Commissioner Labu Ram said investigations were underway. Brother Simon of the Divine Deliverance Ministry in Dharwad told UCA News that he and his community had full faith in the law

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