Christians are being used, not abused – Swapan Dasgupta

Swapan Dasgupta“The fact that neither Mr Rebeiro nor Adm. Kumar have been able to give satisfactory explanations as to why they have suddenly gone public with their fears over the citizenship rights of Christians has, in turn, prompted a number of conspiracy theories. There are accusations flying all over social media that the Churches have taken a conscious decision to target the Modi government politically, first by attributing political motives to every incident involving a church building or individual Christians and, second, by enlarging its significance to suggest that an entire community is under attack.” – Swapan Dasgupta

Prof  Jagdish BhagwatiThe most comic fallout of Jagdish Bhagwati’s interview to NDTV about the spuriousness of the brouhaha over persecution of Christians in India may yet happen if his great economist rival Amartya Sen decides to publicly assert the opposite. So far the outgoing chancellor of the controversy-gripped Nalanda University has chosen to remain silent. But I am sure that the pressure on him to stand up and repeat Pastor Martin Niemoller’s “First they came for the Jews…” must, presumably, be intense.

Let’s be clear on one point: the opponents of Narendra Modi have smelt blood and seem determined to pursue their single-minded campaign to suggest that a majoritarian madness has gripped India. Earlier, and particularly during the 2014 general election, this campaign had seen the outpourings of anguish on the part of intellectuals and a small section of the media. On his part,

Mr Modi had (and has) provided absolutely no ammunition to substantiate the fear that the multi-religious character of India would be jeopardised by the exit of a Congress-led government. True, there was a pre-existing Hindu-Muslim faultline that manifested itself in the minority community staying away from the BJP. However, in the first 11 months of the Modi government, the concerns have been on the relative inadequacy of Muslim political representation rather than the security of the community. Even on this count, there was consternation among professional secularists that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the People’s Democratic Party managed to forge a coalition in Jammu and Kashmir.

Julio RibeiroUnder the circumstances, the so-called fear that is said to have gripped the Christian community following some small incidents has come as a surprise. What is even more unexpected is that these have become the occasion for a number of prominent Indian Christians to agonise over the community’s future in India. First there was the retired police officer Julio Rebeiro who asked whether he had become an alien in his own country. Subsequently, Sushil Kumar Isaacformer Navy Chief Adm. Sushil Kumar (Retd.) expressed a fear that the “communal virus” could affect the camaraderie of the armed forces — a grave concern in view of the fact that the armed forces have always been well and truly insulated from all political schisms. Finally, various functionaries of reputed Christian education institutions have added their voices to the campaign over Christian persecution. Indeed, there is now every possibility that international Christian voices could be added to the list of those who question the ability of the Modi government to maintain religious harmony.

I don’t think it will be exaggeration to suggest that the charge of Christian vulnerability has been greeted with a sense of disbelief in most of India. While the BJP’s political opponents may delight over any discomfiture felt by the government, particularly anything that shifts attention from the main agenda of economic reconstruction, the use of the tiny Christian community as a vanguard of any anti-Modi movement has been greeted with a measure of exasperation. Was Mr Rebeiro, it is being asked, ever rewarded or discriminated on the strength of his religious faith? On what basis has Adm. Kumar suggested that the “communal virus” could also affect the well-being of the armed forces? Did he ever face discrimination because he was a Christian?

Bangladeshi Nun RapersThe fact that neither Mr Rebeiro nor Adm. Kumar have been able to give satisfactory explanations as to why they have suddenly gone public with their fears over the citizenship rights of Christians has, in turn, prompted a number of conspiracy theories. There are accusations flying all over social media that the churches have taken a conscious decision to target the Modi government politically, first by attributing political motives to every incident involving a church building or individual Christians and, second, by enlarging its significance to suggest that an entire community is under attack. If this understanding of the “church agenda” is correct, it would follow that the third phase of the campaign would lie in making common cause with all the anti-Modi forces in the country.

We saw a small trailer of the third phase in the last day of campaigning for the Delhi Assembly poll when a small (but lavishly reported) demonstration of Christians became the signal for all members of the community to come out and vote against the BJP two days later.

Baselios Cardinal CleemisWhatever the real motivations of the clergy of various Christian denominations, there is no doubt that it has succeeded in putting Christians at the centre of a previously non-existent political divide. The political storm has served to resurrect subterranean schisms over religious conversions and the global links of the churches. Whether unwittingly or otherwise, Christian activism may even have prompted a large measure of countervailing reaction, much to the delight of a cynical media that seems intent on keeping the cauldron of communal politics boiling. Making Christians more aware of their religious self-identity may be a legitimate exercise on the part of community leaders. But when this results in non-Christians seeing Christians as being removed from the mainstream, the results can be self-defeating. Unless, of course, the avowed aim is to sharpen the sense of differences.

Sonia Gandhi with Cardinal Archbishop George Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar Church in Kerala.A very dangerous game is being played by a handful whose idea of harmony is at variance with the consensual view of composite Indian citizenship. In the short-term, and thanks in no small measure to this unwarranted desire to cry wolf, we are likely to see a sharp focus on the entire issue of religious conversions — an issue that has been troubling Hindu communities in southern India. The government may feel that the emerging truth of the Ranaghat nun rape will cool passions. Unfortunately, I get an uncomfortable feeling that in the battle between propaganda and truth, the latter may become a casualty. We are not witnessing a religious conflict. These are just the opening shots of a political battle, using Christians as a human shield. – The Asian Age, 3 April 2015

» Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist in Delhi.

Christians are not under attack in India

6 Responses

  1. Wrong picture of Sushil Kumar!
    That is not Admiral Sushil Kumar (Retd.), it is Sushil Modi of Bihar

  2. What Mr.Swapan Das Gupta has written is hundred percent correct. If any doubt study the situation in Kerala. These are masterminded by the churches in Kerala.

  3. Supreme Court Judge Kurian Joseph and Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu

    CJI holds conference during Easter weekend, SC judge to skip PM’s dinner in protest – HT Correspondent – Hindustan Times – New Delhi – Apr 04, 2015

    A Supreme Court judge upset over the All India Chief Justices Conference being held on Good Friday has decided not to attend a dinner being hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for top judges on Saturday because it coincides with the Easter weekend.

    Justice Kurian Joseph expressed his concerns over the conference being held on Good Friday, a holy day for Christians, in a letter sent to Modi on April 1. The judge wrote to Modi after Chief Justice HL Dattu did not heed his objections to the timing of the three-day event.

    Joseph thanked the prime minister for the invitation to the dinner but said: “I regret my inability to attend the event as the conference coincides with the Good Friday ceremonies. Good Friday is a day of great religious significance to us, marking the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

    “Thus, it is customary for us to be part of the religious and other ceremonies with the parents, elders and other family members during the holy weekend. Hence I would be in Kerala during those days.”

    Joseph described the prime minister as the “guardian of Indian secularism” and said the government should respect the holy days of all religions while scheduling official events.

    “I know it is too late to reschedule the events. But being the guardian of Indian secularism, I request your Honour to kindly have in mind these concerns also while scheduling events and benevolently show equal importance and respect to the sacred days of all religions which are also declared as national holidays,” the letter said.

    Joseph said he has taken the liberty to express some concerns that he felt required the prime minister’s consideration. He referred to historical instances and said Jews and Zoroastrians, who came to India after being persecuted abroad, got “respect and bonhomie” from Hindu rulers.

    “The whole world jealously looks at the beauty of the secular image, communal harmony and cultural integrity of our great nation. India must in these trying times, safeguard her credentials and be a model that other nations must follow,” he said.

    Dattu had on March 18 rejected Joseph’s request, insisting it was not the first time the conference was held on a public holiday. He cited several precedents to support his decision, which he said was made to avoid disruption of normal working days. He also said institutional interests were paramount.

    Christians had protested when the BJP-led government decided last year to observe former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, which coincides with Christmas, as “Good Governance Day”.

    Modi will address a joint session of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts on the third and final day of the judges’ conference.

    Fast-tracking of cases related to offences against women, children, differently-abled persons and senior citizens were among the issues discussed on the first day of the conference that began on Friday.

    The closed door meeting, chaired by the chief justice, also focused on augmenting post-retirement benefits for judges of high courts and discussed financial independence for the judiciary.

    • Justice Joseph is the only Christian judge among Supreme Court judges.

      He is demanding special recognition from Modi for his Christian religious holiday.

      But Modi didn’t recognise anybody’s religious holiday this April. There were Hindu, Jain, and Jewish holy days during this same Easter period which the Government didn’t recognise.

      And Modi observed his Vasant Navratri fast period this March but nobody heard anything about it. It did not interfere with his work schedule or government business in any way.

      The fact that it is ‘important’ Christian public figures attacking Modi on various communal counts suggests that it is the Church hierarchy behind the calculated mischief.

      The US may be involved too. The new US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, is an ethnic Indian and a ‘practising’ Christian convert (according to a TOI report).

      As the commentator below says, “… it is the Church hierarchy that is feeling threatened.”

      The Church hierarchy may be feeling threatened because Indian Christians are thinking for themselves and not listening to their clerics any longer.

      The Church hierarchy is in fact becoming irrelevant.

      See India is not the Vatican, Justice Joseph – Sandeep Balakrishna

  4. I agree with Swapan Dasgupta. Chrisians in India need not fear anything, as we have always lived peacefully with the Hindu people. I think it is the Church hierarchy that is feeling threatened.

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