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Indian Elections 2009: God and Country

The ongoing elections in India have exposed deep fractures in the country's religious landscape. Blogs are buzzing with allegations and counter allegations of religious persecutions in the land where you can find devotee of every major religion in the world.

Persecution of Christians is a hot topic among Indian and foreign bloggers. Violence against Christians in the state of Orissa is the most widely commented topics on the issue of intolerance against Christians in the country.

Here is Sandhya, a citizen journalist for Instablogs reporting on the Hindu-Christian clashes. The title of this video is provided by the journalist, not by author of this blog or Global Voices.

While there is strong presence of blogs, websites on the issue of alleged persecution of Christians, some Indian bloggers and foreign journalists have negated those claims:

Francois Gautier, a French journalist, discussed the issue back in 2001, long before the Orissa violence:

“Now to come to the recent cases of persecution of Christians in India at the hands of Hindu groups. I have personally investigated quite a few, amongst them the rape of the four nuns in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, nearly two years ago. This rape is still quoted as an example of the “atrocities” committed by Hindus on Christians.

Yet, when I interviewed the four innocent nuns, they themselves admitted, along with George Anatil, the bishop of Indore, that it had nothing to do with religion: It was the doing of a gang of Bhil tribals, known to perpetrate this kind of hateful acts on their own women. Today, the Indian press, the Christian hierarchy and the politicians, continue to include the Jhabua rape in the list of atrocities against Christians.”

At Vijayvaani, Hilda Raja-a retired professor, writes about the ongoing debate on persecution of Christians in India which grew louder as the elections approached:

“The GCIC (Global Council of Indian Christians) has made a grave accusation against the present UPA government – that there may be unfair elections. But it appeals to the same political leaders who cannot ensure even fair elections to guarantee safety for religious minorities (read Christians) and ensure their participation in elections, defend freedom of religion, and bring to justice those who discriminate against Christians. That’s a tall order. If the UPA government till date was not able to ensure all this, how can it do so on the eve of elections?

If carefully scrutinized, the statement calls for throwing out such a government and bringing in one which will fulfill the tall order made by GCIC. Thus, unwittingly, it has accused the UPA under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, an Italian Christian, to have failed in protecting minorities. Another serious accusation made by Abhishek (director, Open Doors) is that the law had been restricted in its application in favour of the Hindu majority and to the disadvantage of minorities such as Christians and Muslims (under Congress-led UPA, I suppose).

Does this mean that he and other organizations with whom he collaborates want to throw out the UPA government which failed minorities and bring in a government which will protect minorities? “

Alleged bias against India's Muslims is also being discussed online. Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan discusses “Indian Muslims and the 2009 Elections – Challenges and Prospects of Political Success” in depth.

He points out the emergence of small regional parties as a viable choice for Muslims who feel alienated by large national parties:

“A new phenomenon this time is the emergence of a number of small Muslim parties. Muslims already have the Indian Union Muslim League in the southern state of Kerala (with 2-3 members of Parliament and a sizable presence in the provincial legislative assembly) and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin in the southern city of Hyderabad (one member of Parliament and about a dozen in the provincial assembly).

A new Muslim entrant from the last year is the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) in the northeastern state of Assam which won nine seats in the provincial assembly elections last year and expects to win 4-5 seat in the current national elections. The AUDF has now stretched its wings to other states too and is fighting elections in a number of northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.”

Here is actress Shabana Azami, talking about being Muslim in India. An interesting discussion on bias against Muslims in India.

This post is part of the Global Voices special coverage on the Indian Elections 2009

  • Dharmendra Chatur

    There is no doubt about widespread marginalization of the minority communities such as the Muslims and Christians in India. Many Hindu families in India have made up their mind not to interact with these minorities, whether on a personal or a professional level- which in turn leads to further marginalization. The seed of such behaviour is sowed by fundamentalists who intrinsically feel threatened by these minorities. The Hindutva ideology was born due to this fear. The mass persecution also stems out of such an ideology. The question to ask is whether India will ever be able to come out of this attitude and whether Secularism will assert itself over communalism. Your guess is as good as mine.

  • JI

    There’s no doubt that minorities in India, Christians and Muslims in particular, face increasing persecution in their own land. How else does one explain the recent the pogrom against Christians in Orissa, and subsequent attacks on Christian places of worship in other parts of the country. This has made Indian Christians a lot more insecure and why their leaders accuse the purportedly secular UPA government of being culpable for the violence, because of inaction on their part.

    What is worrying is that even ‘secular’ parties such as Congress only pay lip service to secularism, so that they do not loose the Hindu vote. One only has to look at what is happening in India’s neighbouring country – Pakistan – to see what happens when religious fanaticism gets out of control. Eventually fanaticism destroys society as a whole.

    There are plenty of people in India who find the idea of turning India into a Hindu country very appealing. People like Fancois Gautier are fellow travellers of the Hindutva project. I take anything written or spoken by him with a pinch of salt.

    The future of India is yet to be written. For now the Hindu nationalists will keep demonising religious minorities, particularly Christian and Muslim, who they regard even to the extent being foreign. One only hopes that majoritan communalism will be kept in check, although the current trend is in the opposite direction.

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