By Dr. Olav Albuquerque
The ruling BJP which forms the Indian Government and some state governments as in Maharashtra and Goa has launched on a persecution of minorities according to the ideology of the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS) which is a non-political Hindu fundamentalistorganization. Most BJP ministers, including Prime Minister NarendraModi are RSS swayamsevaks (volunteers). They are infused with the ideology that India is a Hindu rashtra or state after the partition and all minorities in India should convert to Hinduism or be expelled to the countries where they allegedly owe their loyalties.
The rape of a 72-year-old Catholic nun in West Bengal, coming close on the heels of the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, announcing that the work of the Nobel Peace Prize winning saint, Mothr Teresa was done to convert Hindus to Christianity, has evoked shock waves throughout the international community. Another fundamentalist, known for his extremist views, Dr.SubramaniamSwamy, supported the hideous views of Bhagwat and shortly before the rape of the nun, announced that only “temples were the abode of Gods because God did not dwell either in mosques or churches.”
Till today, the rapists of the 72-yer-old nun have not been arrested although there is footage of their faces and they can be easily identified. The West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, has stated in public that the heinous rape could be an outcome of the “GharWapasi” (homecoming or reconversion to Hinduism) campaign launched by the BJP. Till date, several thousands of Muslims and Christians have been reconverted to Hinduism.
Several Christian churches in New Delhi were vandalized and sacred items destroyed by Hindu fanatics with Prime Minister NarendraModi refusing to condemn the incidents and the Delhi police playing down the incident by saying that this was the work of robbers. Only when he was put into a corner by international outrage over the repeated attacks on churches and forced conversions of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, did Modi say there was only one religion and that was the religion of the Indian Constitution.
On March 15, the Congress spokesman, Sanjay Jha, stated on Times Now newshour at 9 p.m. that the RSS was notorious for its extremist views and had even distributed sweets when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1947. The outburst was provoked because the BJP which is the ruling party in the Goa Government had cancelled Gandhi Jayanti on October 2, this year as a holiday for the state, provoking outrage. Later, the Goa Government stated it was a printing error and October 2 would continue to be observed as a holiday in Goa.
The Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was the BJP’s chief minister of Goa before becoming DefenceMinister. He was earlier Goa chief minister for the first time in October 2000 — raising the BJP’ strength in tiny Goa from four MLAs in 1994 to 17 in 2002. He lost power but returned to office four months later to rule as chief minister till 2005, when he lost the elections because of his tendency to believe that only he was honest and everyone else was not. Just like NarenderaModi in Gujarat, Parrikar cancelled Good Friday (when Christians mourn due to the death of Lord Jesus Christ) as a holiday, although Christians form 27 % of Goa’s population. He also cancelled the Feast of St Francis Xavier as a holiday in that state, reinforcing the image of the BJP as anti-Christian and anti-Muslim.During his tenure, the RSS launched the GharWapasi in peaceful Goa, aggressively forcing Christians and Muslims to return to Hinduism.
In neighboringMaharshtra, the ruling BJP has immediately banned the slaughter of cows, transport, and sale of beef so that those violating the law face a stringent jail sentence of five years plus fine. Beef is a source of protein for Muslims in Maharashtra and also the Dalits (lower castes in Hinduism). They are now forced to switch to other foods such as mutton and chicken which have become prohibitively expensive. In Mumbai, the financial capital of India, a few restaurants selling beef have incurred huge losses.
The vast numbers of butchers in Maharashtra come from the Quresh community. They are from the majority Sunni Muslim community who are among the biggest of the meat-eating community. Muslims have a sizable presence in the tanning industry of Maharashtra and the aggressive push of the DevendraFadniavis government in Maharashtra to ban the slaughter of bullocks will further deprive Muslims of jobs.
The perception among Muslims in Maharashtra is that the DevendraFadnavis (who is himself an RSS man) government is against Muslims in the state which is reinforced by the dropping of reservations for Muslims in government jobs and institutes. The previous governments such as the Chavan government had announced these sops for Muslims during its tenure and the plan being mooted was 16 % reservation for Marathas and 5% for Muslims. This was seen as a political ploy to win the votes of these two communities.
This ploy did not really work because the Congress, beset by charges of corruption and the NCP lost the elections but the Fadnavis government introduced the bill on Maratha reservations while dropping the 5 % reservation quota for Muslims in the state, although the literacy rate for Muslims is very low. The bill was passed as all parties supported the reservation for Marathas which form a huge vote bank in industrialized Maharashtra. The NCP was the only party to oppose dropping of the Muslim quota.
During campaigning in the run-up to the 2014 elections, Prime Minister designate (as he then was) NarendraModi blatantly refused to wear a skull cap when he was offered one by Muslims although he unhesitatingly wore all the other headgear offered by other communities such as the pagdi and the pheta. This was seen as a direct insult to the Muslim community.
But to revert to the Christians, the refusal of Modi to even condemn the desecration of churches provoked an otherwise reticent Cardinal Oswald Gracias in Mumbai to give media interviews lamenting the deteriorating communal situation and pointing out that when he was young, he played with Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Parsis in suburban Mahim without a thought about which community they belonged. He lamented that those from the majority community sought admissions in schools and colleges run by the Christians, to learn English and then attacked the same community which provided them education at nominal rates. The grandson of late Shiv Senasupremo, Bal Thackeray, Aditya Thackeray, passed his B.A. from St Xavier’s College in Mumbai. The son of another Hindutva hardliner, Raj Thackeray, is learning German.
It is worthwhile to stress that both India and Pakistan share a common heritage and the attacks on minority communities in both these countries does not augur well for their development. The U.S President Barack Obama had spelt out his concerns when he visited India by stating that India would progress if it did not fragment along communal lines. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gave the right to all to profess and propagate the religion of their choice, he stressed before returning to his country.
(The author is former journalist associated with The Time of India)
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