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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

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