Modi Govt acknowledges Christian community's concerns: dialogue set for Sept 21text_fields
New Delhi: In response to the escalating wave of anti-Christian incidents in India, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has extended an invitation to the United Christians Forum (UCF) for discussions on the concerns faced by the Christian community. This move comes as the nation grapples with increasing reports of violence and discrimination against Christians.
The National Coordinator of the UCF, A.C. Michael, expressed his satisfaction at the government's initiative, stating, "We are happy that the government has called us to discuss our various concerns." The UCF, a national Christian network, has been diligently documenting incidents of atrocities and discrimination against Christians in India.
The invitation, sent by the NCM, specified a meeting scheduled for September 21 at the commission's office in New Delhi. It acknowledged the UCF's previous letter dated April 21, 2023, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which highlighted issues concerning the Christian community.
Prime Minister Modi, whose ruling BJP is known for its Hindu nationalist agenda, has previously engaged with Christians. In April, he visited the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on Easter Day, lighting a candle in front of the risen Christ statue and planting a sapling in the cathedral garden.
However, the UCF, in its letter to Modi, expressed three major grievances. Firstly, they raised concerns about the "harmful" impact of anti-conversion laws enacted in 11 Indian states. These laws have generated controversy, with critics arguing they curtail religious freedom. Secondly, the UCF highlighted frequent attacks on Christian educational institutions, further exacerbating tensions. Lastly, they emphasized continued discrimination against Christian Dalits, a historically marginalized community in Indian society.
The term "Dalit," meaning "trampled upon," refers to low-caste individuals who have traditionally faced social discrimination. While the federal government in 1950 extended benefits to Hindu Dalits, including free education and quotas in government jobs, Christian Dalits have struggled for similar rights. This disparity has fuelled demands for equal rights within the Christian community, which constitutes over 34 million individuals in India.
Amid the growing incidents of anti-Christian violence, the UCF urged Prime Minister Modi "not to let a few misguided people strangulate … the peaceful coexistence in the great diversity of India." They hope that the forthcoming discussions with the NCM will lead to a serious dialogue and help reduce the increasing incidents of violence against Christians.
Startling data presented by the UCF indicates a worrisome trend. In the first 212 days of 2023, 525 incidents of violence against Christians have been reported from 23 states across India. These incidents predominantly involve mob violence led by vigilante groups, allegedly receiving support from individuals in positions of power.
Additionally, 520 Christians have been arrested, accused of false forced conversions without sufficient evidence. This represents a significant escalation, as the number of atrocities against Christians stood at just over 100 when Prime Minister Modi took office in 2014 and surged to 505 in 2022.