Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Public statement: 93 ex-bureaucrats urge PM to denounce attacks against Christians

A group of 93 former civil servants on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak against the rise in hatred and violence against Christians in India.

In the letter, the former civil servants said that Christians are being falsely accused of forcible conversions, followed by attacks that are verbal, physical, and psychological.

“It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves,” the former civil servants said in the letter issued under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group. “…One has to ask – if such large-scale conversions are happening, why has the percentage of Christians remained static over so many decades?”

Read the full text of the letter:

Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji,

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked in the Central and State Governments during our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and share a commitment to the Constitution of India.

We write to you today because we are deeply perturbed by the continued harassment, through speech and criminal action, of minority groups in the country by persons associated with your government, your party, organisations connected to it, and by mischief makers from amongst the public. While we are concerned about the hate crimes and speeches against all minorities, we write to you today about the steadily increasing ugly words and actions against a small religious minority, the Christians. Our Constitution clearly spells out that all citizens, irrespective of religion, are equal and have equal rights, but we are compelled to protest to you against the increasing incidents of outright discrimination against Christians occurring in recent times.

Christians constitute but 2.3 per cent of India’s population, and this percentage has remained more or less the same since the census of 1951. Yet, in the minds of some, this minuscule number poses a threat to the 80% of the population that is Hindu! The principal allegation against Christians is one of forcible conversions, and because of this accusation, they have been subjected to attacks – verbal, physical, and psychological, against both their persons and against their institutions. It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves.

It is an acknowledged fact that the role of Christians towards building our nation has been immense. The participation and leadership of Christians in the civil services as well as in the armed forces stands testimony to the community’s national commitment.

This apart, Christians in India have been particularly active on three fronts, viz. education, health and social reform, carrying these to remote and inaccessible areas and to the most deprived sections, the Dalits and tribal peoples. The beneficiaries have been from all faiths. Values which have been identified with Christianity, such as discipline, sacrifice and service have been the hallmark of Christian institutions. During the recent pandemic more than one thousand Christian – run hospitals were readily offered up for the treatment of patients. Not a single Christian institution – whether education or health related, restricts its benefits to Christians alone. Thirty percent of India’s nurses are Christians.

Christians have consistently punched above their weight in every field. But today they are being accused of using these very institutions and services as instruments for conversion; and even of resorting to forcible conversion. One has to ask – if such large-scale conversions are happening, why has the percentage of Christians remained static over so many decades?

Notwithstanding this, in recent years the Christian community has been the victim of physical violence. It is troubling that violence against Christians in different parts of the country has persisted and has increased in recent years. Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy, for no fault of his except that he was closely working with the Adivasis, Dalits and other underprivileged people of Jharkhand, was virtually driven to his death by no less than the State. Churches and homes of tribal and Dalit Christians have been destroyed, graveyards vandalised, educational and health institutions have been attacked and prayer gatherings have been terrorised. These attacks have happened primarily in Chhattisgarh, Assam, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. According to the United Christian Forum, the attacks on Christians increased from 279 in 2020 to 505 in 2021 and to 511 in 2022 (up till October).

Some of these recent attacks have been particularly distressing. In August 2022, under the influence of Hindu extremist groups, more than a thousand tribal Christians were banished from their villages in Narayanpur and Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh because they refused to be converted to the Hindu faith. Again, on January 2, 2023, a mob of fifty people barged into a church in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district and vandalised it, attacking even the SP and other police officers who tried to control the trouble. Among the people arrested for this mayhem is a BJP leader. In January 2023, again, a group of forty goondas pledging allegiance to a Hindutva outfit, accused the teachers of a Catholic school travelling from Gujarat to Belagavi of trying to convert people to Christianity. And only a few days ago, at a ‘dharma sansad’ at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, a sadhu shrilly exhorted the audience to slaughter Muslims and Christians. Ignoring all this, persons spewing hatred against Christians have been appointed to high office, even to the judiciary!

Our country has been home to Christianity since the first century CE, long before its introduction in many countries that are today predominantly Christian. Yet Christians today, and in fact, all minorities, are being made to feel strangers in their own country, and guilty about following their own faiths, because of some vocal extremists operating with impunity and at times even with the tacit approval of political or law enforcement authorities.

It is the duty of the State to safeguard the secular character of our country, to protect every citizen, and ensure enjoyment of his or her fundamental rights, regardless of religion. But it is doing little to protect religious minorities. As Prime Minister of our country, and all of its people including Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities, and as a leading member of the BJP, we ask you to speak out against these outrageous acts, and to ensure that the police and other officials prevent such incidents from recurring. Christians, today, and, all other minorities, need to be reassured that they are no less citizens of India than their Hindu brethren.

Hate speech has serious consequences. And the arc is swinging visibly from anti-Muslim to anti-Christian, not in one gory riot but in a series of provocations like church vandalism, defiling of statues, beating up worshippers, bogey of conversions, and public calls for genocide from the nation’s capital. These together with the various anti-conversion laws intimidate and create a climate of fear among Christians and marginalize them. This may not be the case in the north-east, with its well-organised Christian communities, but exhibits itself repeatedly in the rest of the country to achieve partisan political gains.

All violence can be stopped immediately with just a word from the top leaders of the BJP, the Union government and of each state government. As former civil servants, we also know that silence will beget only more violence. Christians, like all Indians now, need to be assured of equal and unbiased treatment by the executive and before the law. It is imperative that you, Mr Prime Minister, give them this reassurance.


Yours faithfully,

Constitutional Conduct Group


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