Date: May 23, 2019
Religious Minorities Fear Difficult Years Ahead for Their Communities
05/23/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is set to record another landslide electoral victory following the conclusion of India’s national elections. Using a mix of nationalist rhetoric and promises of economic development, Mr. Modi has secured another five years of political rule for the BJP.
Christians and other religious minorities are reportedly concerned by the news of the BJP’s victory. Since coming to power in 2014, the BJP and Mr. Modi have overseen a dramatic increase in intolerance and religiously motivated violence.
“The number one issue in this election for Christians is safety,” Dr. Paul R.T. Maran, National Bishop of the Indian National Apostolic Diocese, told ICC earlier this month. “This election is like a ‘do or die’ situation. If the BJP comes to power, Christians won’t be treated as equal citizens because their aim is to establish [a] Hindu India.”
According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), violent attacks on India’s Christian community have more than doubled over the course of the BJP’s rule. In 2014, the year the BJP came to power, EFI documented 147 violent attacks on India’s Christian community. In 2018, after four years of BJP rule, EFI documented 325 violent attacks.
Many blame this rise in religious intolerance on the BJP’s promotion of Hindu nationalism. BJP leaders regularly use religiously divisive rhetoric for political gain. As a result, this rhetoric often incites anti-minority violence primarily perpetrated by radical Hindu nationalist groups operating across India. In many cases, the perpetrators of anti-minority violence are not brought to justice. This then perpetuates an escalating cycle of incitement and impunity.
“The situation for minorities in India [will] not improve because the damage has already been done at the grassroots level,” Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of EFI, told ICC. “India has been successfully polarized along religious and ethnic lines.”
“The [return] of Mr. Modi will likely result in greater impunity for those who attack and malign religious minorities,” Lal concluded.
Reacting to the BJP’s victory, A.C. Michael, former Member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said, “This does not mean that we Christians will stop practicing our faith as guaranteed by the constitution. I feel, however, we may have to adopt different approaches to win over the confidence of minorities who are otherwise living in fear of the Hindutva agenda.”
Many Christians across India are concerned that a BJP-dominated government will attempt to change the constitution and establish India as a Hindu nation. Currently, the constitution establishes India as a secular nation and guarantees the religious freedom of its citizens under Article 25.
“If the new government wants to change the constitution, it must be to strengthen its secular guarantees,” Dr. John Dayal, National Spokesperson of the United Christian Forum, told ICC. “Our future depends on the protection of the ethnic and cultural diversity of this vast land.”
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “We congratulate Prime Minister Modi and the BJP on another electoral victory. However, we also call upon those who will form the new government to use their time in office to uplift and protect all of India’s citizens, including religious minorities. The increase of intolerance and religiously motivated violence has been ignored for too long. We call on Prime Minister Modi to take public notice of this growing problem and to make concrete steps towards protecting the religious freedom rights of minority communities as guaranteed by India’s constitution.”