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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

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,

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)

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood last month atop India’s nearly completed new Parliament, built to mark the country’s 75 years of independence, and pulled a lever. A sprawling red curtain fell back to reveal the structure’s crowning statue. Many across India gasped. The 21-foot-tall bronze icon — four lions seated with their backs to one another, facing outward — is India’s revered national symbol. The beasts are normally depicted as regal and restrained, but these looked different: Their fangs bared, they seemed angry, aggressive. To Mr. Modi’s critics, the refashioned image atop the Parliament — a project that was rammed through without debate or public consultation — reflects the snarling “New India” he is creating. In his eight years in power, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government has profaned Indian democracy, espousing an intolerant Hindu supremacist majoritarianism over the ideals of secularism, pluralism, religious tolerance and equal citizenship upon which the country was founded after gaining independence on Aug. 15, 1947. Drawing comparisons to Nazi Germany, the regime uses co-opted government machinery, disinformation and intimidation by partisan mobs to silence critics while dehumanizing the large Muslim minority, fanning social division and violence. Civil liberties are systematically violated. India, the world’s largest democracy, is where the

We find ourselves slowly slipping back into the feudal mess we came out of Among national festivals in many countries, Independence Day usually takes first place. It’s the day that celebrates the birth of a nation, the shaking off of colonial oppression, the welding of many ethnic groups into one modern state. When India celebrates 75 years as a nation on Aug. 15, it’s also an occasion to ask ourselves: Has independence made a difference? How has freedom changed us? Have we realized the hopes we had? Not easy questions to answer. Looking at the broad picture, one can see two contradictory movements in almost every area of life. On the one hand, we celebrate the rise of the ordinary person, the aam aadmi, the aam aurat. Today the president of the republic is a tribal woman, a public statement that even the most oppressed groups can make it to the top. "Standards of education are in decline almost everywhere, universities are in disarray, and in many places, there’s violent hostility to girls going to school" And yet, on the other hand, every day brings home the almost total failure of the sarkar — the ruling class. In those memorable words of Gurcharan Das: “India grows by night,

‘Burning Lanka’ tells all what not to do, says Uday Kotak In the backdrop of the country's economic crisis, Kotak Banker Uday Kotak has come out with an intriguing comment as an outbreak of violent civil unrest in neighbouring Sri Lanka forced a regime change in the island nation with the resignation of its Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Monday. “The Russia Ukraine war goes on and the going gets tough. True test of nations is now. Strength of institutions like the judiciary, regulators, police, government, Parliament will matter. Doing what is right and not populist is crucial. A ‘burning Lanka’ tells all what not to do!” Kotak Mahindra Bank CEO Uday Kotak said in a tweet on Tuesday. Couched in generic terms, there was no explicit indication that this was a rare bit of advice to the Modi government from one of its most ardent supporters. The Modi government has been battling a crisis on several fronts: inflation has shot through the roof and is expected to cross 7.5 per cent — an 18-month high — when the government statisticians come out with the numbers for April on Thursday. Rising food and fuel prices, surging commodity prices, a severe disruption in supply chains, and

Hindi as the national language suits the BJP's wider agenda of establishing a nation of and for Hindus A strong push for a Hindi-speaking, Hindu India Home Minister Amit Shah gestures during an election rally in Uttar Pradesh on Feb. 3. Federal Home Minister Amit Shah, a trusted aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has come all out in support of Hindi as the official language of communication across a multilingual India. Hindi is the mother tongue of around 40 percent of Indians in the northern belt while the rest of its citizens speak over 120 other languages, with English serving as the crucial bridge. Shah made it clear that Hindi should become an “alternative to English” and not the other Indian languages. He wants non-Hindi speakers to start using Hindi while communicating with each other. He also suggested making Hindi flexible by accepting words from other Indian languages to help propagate it. Leaders from Hindi-speaking northern India have been pushing to make Hindi the national language for a long time, hoping to further endear themselves to their voters. But Shah’s remarks at a recent meeting of the parliamentary official language committee are a bit baffling. There is perhaps a communal angle here. The Bharatiya Janata

Anti-conversion laws in India, ironically also known as Freedom of Religion Acts, are state-level laws that have been enacted to regulate religious conversion. To date, Ten states out of twenty-eight states have enacted these laws: Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Haryana, this February, has introduced an anti-conversion bill in the Assembly. Recently, Manipur has also shown interest in bringing such laws. The majority of these states have a good number of Adivasi/Tribal populations. So it is intriguing to know why these laws are more familiar to Adivasi dominated states?. But in recent years, it is becoming common across the country, especially where BJP is the ruling party. In this piece, my focus is on Adivasi dominated states. Anti-conversion laws are not a new phenomenon in India, it has a history since the colonial time. Around the 1930s and 1940s, some Hindu princely states enacted these laws to preserve Hindu religious identity out of the fear of the British missionaries. The princely states were Kota, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Raigarh, Patna, Surguja, Udaipur, and Kalahandi. In post-colonial India, despite pressure from Hindu groups to introduce anti-conversion laws at the national level, Nehru rejected such

The three-term Indian American congressman has long ignored massive violations of human rights and religious freedom in India in deference to his Hindu nationalist benefactors and his friendship with Prime Minister Modi. (The following article was originally published in American Kahani, an ethnic news portal of Indian Americans. To read the article in American Kahani, please click here). For over two years, I have been trying to convince Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi to stand on the right side of history by condemning the anti-minority policies of the Modi government and by distancing himself from his Hindu nationalist benefactors in the U.S. It started in December 2019 when a report surfaced that he was a keynote speaker at a Hindu nationalist event in Chicago. He claimed that the report was false and that it was an Indian festival where there just happened to be some pictures of Hindu nationalist leaders. He also insisted that he was not in any way associated with Hindu nationalism. In fact, the October 2019 event was to commemorate the 94th birthday of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and it was organized by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the overseas arm of the RSS. On stage were HSS officials as well as

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