India: Hindutva plus Impunity equals Persecution

By: Elizabeth Kendal

The violent militant and communal persecution that continues to plague India is fuelled by the unchecked propagation of this toxic, dangerous ideology of Hindutva and because justice is routinely perverted by politicians, police, investigators and judges with Hindutva sympathies.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 029 | Wed 04 Nov 2009

INDIA: HINDUTVA PLUS IMPUNITY EQUALS PERSECUTION

Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), actually has little to do with religion and everything to do with establishing a political system -- a Hindu State -- that will guarantee Aryan (race) and Brahmin (caste) superiority, supremacy and privilege. This will protect and preserve the immoral, racist, human-rights-abusing caste system. The violent militant and communal persecution that continues to plague India is fuelled by the unchecked propagation of this toxic, dangerous ideology of Hindutva and because justice is routinely perverted by politicians, police, investigators and judges with Hindutva sympathies. Unless these two root causes -- ideology and injustice / impunity -- are addressed, then the situation in India will continue to deteriorate. Furthermore, according to a 29 October report from Compass Direct (CD), a new generation of angry, more militant Hindutva groups is emerging, frustrated by the democratic process.

Hindutva persecution takes three main forms: severe discrimination and physical violence that arises from sheer racial-religious-political hatred; forced and coerced 'reconversions' to Hinduism; and exploitation of anti-conversion laws. The latter two (and communal pogroms) occur mostly in states run by the BJP (Hindu nationalists), while the discrimination and violence (ambushes, invasions, beatings, stabbings, burnings, tortures and killings) occur nationally. According to CD, a reported 800 tribal Christians were 'reconverted' to Hinduism in a 'purification ceremony' in Maharashtra state on 26 October. The ceremony was led by Hindutva cleric, Swami Narendra Maharaj, who is known to be behind much of the anti-Christian violence occurring in Maharashtra's tribal regions. Maharaj hoped to reconvert 6,000 tribal Christians that day and aims to reconvert 100,000. For many, 'reconversion' is the only way to escape crippling discrimination and violent persecution. Meanwhile, Indian Christian pastors and evangelists are routinely being dragged into police stations and before courts on false accusations of 'forced conversions'. In India the anti- conversion law is used  much like the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan: as an instrument of persecution, where just one accusation will bring immense trouble to the falsely accused. (Note: 'reconversion' to Hinduism is permitted as Hindu nationalism regards Hinduism as the 'natural' religion of every Indian.)

The lack of justice (impunity) has three main consequences: it legitimises and bolsters the protagonists; it devalues and demoralises the victims; and it destabilises the State (Proverbs 29:4a). During the August-September 2008 pogrom in Orissa, most of Kandhamal's Christians fled into the forest. However, some fled to the home of the tribal elder, Sidheswar Pradhan, a respected Hindu peacemaker and defender of Christians. When Sidheswar Pradhan spoke up for the Christians and condemned the Hindu violence, the rampaging Hindus repeatedly stabbed him and set fire to his home, leaving him to be burned alive. Despite the testimony of eye-witnesses to the murder, the accused have been convicted and sentenced to three years' labour merely for 'destroying evidence'. Moreover, these accused murderers remain free on bail while they appeal the sentence. Hindu human rights activist Dhirendra Panda Hindu decried the ruling saying, 'Justice has been derailed. Some of those who carried out the investigation are linked to the Sangh Parivar [Hindu nationalists]' (AsiaNews 2 Nov 09).

(For a catalogue of persecution in India see Compass Direct at http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/india/)