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Santa Claus rueful at imminent Christmas in India

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Ahead of Christmas, Indian police raided a shishu bhavan (infant house or orphanage) in Kolcatta (West Bengal) and another at Vdodra (Gujarat), Indian prime minister’s home state. The Kolkatta orphanage was established by Mother Teresa herself, and was being run by the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata since February11, 2014. The raiding police claimed that the orphanages were forcibly converting Hindu children to Christianity. They were forced to wear cross, recite the Holy Bible, and eat pork. The orphanage administrations deny the charges and call them “trumped up.  For instance a nun at the Kolkatta orphanage pointed out that the police acted upon complaint of the estranged father of an infant whose mother worked in the kitchen. The orphanage served only vegetarian food and chicken once a week (Indian police probe Mother Teresa’s charity, raid orphanage for ‘forced conversion’ , Licas News, December 15, 2021).

 The persecution of Christians rose by leaps and bounds after Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory and. appointment of Narendra Modi’sas prime minister of India. The raids were not isolated events. During the year 2021, there were over 300 attacks on Christians.

In its reportage dated December 23, 2021, the prestigious Dawn demanded Modi “should be prosecuted for not prosecuting and restricting religious freedom”. It added, “Many human rights groups in India have documented over 300 incidents of Christian persecution in the first nine months of the current year, warning that the Christmas this year might be the worst. The US Commission on Religious Freedom has requested the State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern. The persecution against Christians and other religious minorities have increased since 2014 when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power, and Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Christians in India brace for persecution as Christmas approaches. However, there are serious concerns over hate against Christians’ places of worship in India. In recent months, there has been a surge of violence against Christians who make only 2.3 per cent of India’s population. India has been ranked the 10th worst country globally by the Open Doors USA 2021 World Watch List when it comes to Christian persecution (Minorities in India facing persecution, Dawn, December 23, 2021).

As incriminating evidence, the raiding police mention “13 Bibles were found in the library of the institute and girls staying there were forced to read the religious text”. The Missionaries of Charity, founded in 1950 by the late Mother Teresa, denied the allegations.

In Madhya Pradesh state, authorities also, authorities raided an orphanage, The St Francis Sevadham (charity home) orphanage in Shyampura area (Sagar district) on suspicion that children were fed beef and made to read the Bible. Father Shinto Varghese, director of St. Francis Sevadham orphanage said beef is not even available in the state and only chicken is served once a week and “other nutritious substitutes for vegetarians.”

The priest also clarified that denied that scriptures of all faiths were placed in the prayer room, not bibles only, and that no one was forced to read the Bible as claimed. Father Varghese, who had taken, said the real issue is the 277-acre land that was leased to the orphanage in 1875 for a period of 99 years.

He alleged that upon pressure of Hindu hardliners the state government now wants to take the land.

Earlier there were attacks on churches in New Delhi on February 5, 2015. Following the attack, Christians demonstrated outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Christians say they have been feeling very insecure since 2014 when Narendra Modi came to.

In 2020, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of particular concern” for the first time since 2004.

Attacks on Christian-managed schools

Such attacks are seldom reported. But, the recent attack by a Hindu mob of 200 to 300 people in Madhya Pradesh came into limelight. According to Brother Anthony Tynumkal, principal of St Joseph School, the mob pelted stones at the building. They later barged into the school while students were taking their exam.

Sister Clarissa, speaking from the house in Vadodara, said: “We are in shock, what they say is not true at all and the investigations are ongoing.”

Archbishop Felix MachadoVasai, secretary general of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, told the Asia News agency that he was “deeply distressed” by the investigation.

Although nearly 80 per cent of the country’s one billion population are Hindu, there are also 28 million Christians, who make up 2.3 per cent of its population. Some Christian communities in India were established by St Thomas, the Apostle, in the first century.

Hindu nationalist politicians often stoke hatred against Christians and other minorities (dalit, Muslims, etc) castigating them as outsiders who cannot be trusted. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Sangh Parivar, BJP and other Hindu outfits ‘ slogan is “Hindustan is for the Hindus”. They want Christians and Muslims to leave India as they look towards Vatican City or Mecca. The country in 2020 was ranked the 10th worst in the world for the persecution of Christians by Open Doors, the human rights group.

Why Hindus convert to Christianity

Hindus, particularly the low castes, embrace Christianity or Islam because of the regressive Hindu caste system (Varna, averna, saverna). There are no forceful conversions though several states have outlawed coercive conversions.

Disgusted with religio-economic extremism, more and more people, including dalit (down-trodden) are converting to Christianity, a class-less community. Dalits are not allowed to enter even high-caste Hindu temples. Some dalits were even killed at doorsteps of temples for daring tread foot-steps to temples. According to religious tables in India’s Census Report, 24 million Christians constitute 2.3 percent of India’s total population of 1,028 million. The Christian population includes 14 million Christian dalits. Dalits are Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist members of “untouchable” castes who convert to Christianity. The “untouchable” (sudra) Christians are the most neglected community in India.

Roots of Christianity in India

Christianity is India’s third-most followed religion after Hinduism and Islam. According to religious tables in India’s 2011 census of population, excepting counting, errors and omissions, about 28 million Christians live in India. They constitute 2.3 percent of India’s population.   Thomas the Apostle introduced Christianity to India. He reached the Malabar Coast (Kerala) in 52 AD. And, he carried on preaching in every nook and corner of India until martyred.

Today, Christians live all across particularly in South India and the southern shore, the Konkan Coast, and Northeast India. Through sheer hard work, Indian Christians developed niches in all walks of Indian national life. They include former and current chief ministers, governors and chief election commissioners. To the ruling Bharatiya Janata party’s chagrin, Christians are the second most educated religious group in India after Jains. Christian women outnumber men among the various religious communities in India. The fanatic Hindus fear lest Christianity, with its egalitarian and social- service message, should engulf Hinduism.

Arrival of Catholicism

Till 16th century, Roman Catholicism was unknown to India.   It was introduced by the Portuguese, Italian and Irish Jesuits who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Indians. Alongside preaching, the preachers established Christian schools, hospitals, primary health-care centres through their missions. Later, British, American, German, Scottish missionaries came to preach Evangelical. The evangelist introduced English in missionary schools and translated the Holy Bible into various Indian languages (including Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and others).

Christians now form a major religious group in three states of India:  Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland with plural majority in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.  Significant Christian population lives in Coastal Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Kanara (South India).

Pioneers of persecution

India’s present prime minister Narendra Modi, when chief minister of Gujarat state, and LK Advani could be called pioneers of anti-Christian movement. They distributed Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto, which, inter alia, spoke of enacting an anti-conversion law in states including Gujarat. The laws against conversion are meant to persecute minorities.

The BJP’s manifesto was outcome of decades of hatred, stoked up by Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) elements acting with legal impunity and state governments’ connivance. The anti-Muslim hatred created a gory situation first in Gujarat and then in Orissa. The BJP accentuated its propaganda to create an incendiary situation against the aforementioned minorities in different states during elections.

The BJP acted hands in gloves with Sangh Parivar a collection of Hindu nationalist organisations co-operating towards making India a Hindu State to weave religion and politics strategically together in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enabling the Sangh to exploit religion for political gain.

The country’s legislative history, relating to the issue of conversion underscores the reality that the government always harbored grudge against conversion. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan. Arunachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu passed Freedom of Religion Acts. A common feature of these anti-conversion law is that they made so-called ‘forced conversion’ a cognisable offence under sections 295 A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code.

Cognisability of the offence allowed police to harass missionaries and converts under influence of Hindu fanatics or Government functionaries. Some Indian courts intervened to stop persecution of nouveau converts or Christian preachers. For instance, Chief Justice A.N. Ray in Reverend Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908), and Yulitha v. State of Orissa and others, ruled that propagation is different from conversion. Ray observed adoption of a new religion is freedom of conscience, while conversion would impinge on ‘freedom of choice’ granted to all citizens alike. But the state governments remained nonchalant to the courts’ observations. The courts’ decisions being declaratory (certiorari), not mandatory (mandamus), remained un-implemented. Interestingly, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (February 1981) advised the State Governments and Union Territories to enact laws to regulate change of religion on the lines of the existing Acts in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh (The Statesman, Delhi, November 16, 1982).

There are iron-clad guarantees in the Constitution for religious freedom. Yet, not only the born Christians but also Hindus who become Christians complain of persecution. It is not only Orissa, but also several other Indian states that have passed anti-conversion bills forbidding Hindus to convert to other religions. Such legislation violates the UN Charter of Human Rights which gives a person the right to change his or her religion.

Majoritarian justification

The ostensible justification for such laws is that, in a democracy, the majority has the right to benefit from the principle of ‘majority rule. So, Hindustan (India) is primarily for the Hindus only.

The anti-conversion campaign aimed at restricting the right to propagate religion, which is guaranteed by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The aim of the two parties was to convert India into a Hindu state. India claims to be a secular country. But, unfortunately

Harassment and social boycott

To discourage dalits from converting to Christianity, not only the Centre but also the Indian states have deprived ‘dalit Christians’ of minority-status privileges. Any Hindu who converts to Christianity is socially boycotted and tortured in different ways. Six women at Kilipala village in Jagatsinghpur district (Orissa) had their heads tonsured by influential Hindus. Their offence was abandoning Hindu faith at their own free will. Christian missionaries are harassed, deported and even killed. The Indian government ordered ‘deportation of three American preachers from Church of Christ in North Carolina on the first available flight to the US.’.

To add insult to their injury, the preachers were even attacked by Hindu fanatics. They had a narrow escape. Courts rarely punish people who manhandle Christian preachers. Dara Singh murdered Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons.

A few years back, Hindus attacked Christians as tit-for-tat for a book which allegedly insulted Hindu deities. Investigations revealed that the book was not written by any Christian. But, it happened to be displayed on one of the Emmanuel Mission’s book-shops for sale. The Mission is a Christian organisation that runs a chain of schools in various Indian states.

RSS dubs the Christians “anti-national and terrorists”

In a resolution, the RSS has called upon the Hindus, particularly Swayamsevaks, to be vigilant about `anti-national and terrorist’ Christian groups, posing a threat to the country’s internal security. It urged the Government to take strong measures against said groups. They condemned Pope John Paul II’s statement criticising Indian states’ legislations banning conversions of the Hindus by missionaries.  The executive declared that such conversions were a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the country. It is significant to mention that the Pope had just said that ‘‘free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom was prohibited in India”. RSS’s resolution ignored that the right to change one’s religion was enshrined in the UNO’s Charter of Human Rights, also.

The RSS urged the Centre to lodge a protest with the Pope for exhorting the Christian missionaries to carry on their campaign of conversions defying the law of the land. The persecution continued for five more years. On 12 October 2008, he Pope Benedict XVI was compelled to draw the Indian government’s attention to the continuing anti-Christian violence in India.

On 28 October, the Vatican called upon the memory of Mahatma Gandhi for an end to the religious violence in Orissa. In a written appeal addressed to Hindus, the Vatican office said Christian and Hindu leaders needed to foster a belief in non-violence among followers (“Vatican invokes Gandhi in plea to end Orissa violence“. In.reuters.com. 28 October 2008).

Christians dubbed `insurgents’

In his interview with India Today (April 4, 2005, Christian Missionaries are with Naxals, page 80-81), K. S. Sudersan (Rashtrya Swayem Sevak Sangh) says, ‘Naxals have a safe base in Andhra Pradesh because Christian missionaries are with them. They attack mandir (temples) and other Hindu institutions but never attack a Church.  Because the Chief Minister is a Christian, he has given them abhaydaan (freedom from fear) and crowds of two lakh or more they can gather’.

Sizeable number of Christians (Catholics) also lives in Pondicherry and Goa. A much smaller number live scattered amongst the majority Hindu population in the rest of India.

More incidents of violence

Incidents of violence against Christians have occurred in nearly all parts of India, particularly in north, central, and western India, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the capital area of New Delhi.

Genocide

The genocide of Christians in India’s north-eastern state Orissa was outcome of Hindus’ muffled hatred against Christians. Over 500 Christians, including some nuns, were burnt alive. Countless churches, houses and shops were gutted. Even Christian orphanages were not spared.

Attacks on churches

In June 2000, four churches around India were bombed (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu).  A church in Maharashtra was ransacked.  In September 2008, two churches were partly damaged in Kerala. In 2015, a church building under construction was vandalised in Haryana. St. George church in Mumbai was also attacked by masked persons. In the same month, the cathedral of Jabalpur was attacked and more than a dozen people were injured. The same cathedral had also been attacked in 2008 and the entire altar burnt down. In April 2015, St. Mary’s Church in Agra was vandalised and statues of Mother Mary and the Infant Jesus were damaged. A Church in the Kachna area of Raipur was attacked by a mob during a Sunday service and five people were injured when they tried to stop the assailants.

Several churches were attacked in the capital Delhi in recent years. They include St. Sebastian’s Church (burned), St. Stephen’s college chapel May 5, 2018 (vandalised and the cross desecrated with pro-Hindutva slogans).

In Madhya Pradesh a church was destroyed and bibles were burnt in Mandla district in September 2014. In March 2015, a Bible convention was attacked in Jabalpur, with allegations that religious conversions were taking place. So on.

Concluding remarks

Hindus are an ungrateful nation. They ignore the fact that Christian missionaries started coming to India, particularly the North-East, in the late 19th century. They promoted education and socio-economic developmental work in the region. In Rajasthan, the Emmanuel Mission, alone, runs over 50 schools.

India should have the decency to let Christians celebrate Christmas freely.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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The plight of the Muslim in India

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There is a hue and cry in India that the Muslim population in India may outnumber the current Hindu majority before long. The fanatic Hindus point out that Islam, unlike the Hinduism, allows polygamy. As such, a Muslim household is likely to have more siblings than a Hindu. The BJP wants to enforce a uniform Civil Code that outlaws polygamy.

Not all the projections about the phenomenal growth of the Muslim population may be correct. Above all, the Muslim population in India has always been under-represented in the Lok Sabha. Pew Research Center estimated that there were 195 million Muslims in 2015. By 2060, Pew estimates, there will be more Muslims in India than anywhere else in the world (outnumbering even Indonesia), and they will constitute 19% of Indians.

Riaz Hassan’s study

Riaz Hassan, in his study Indian Muslim: Sociology of a religious Minority infers:

The largest and most consequential change [in population] however will be in India. Its Hindu population will increase by 35 percent from 1.03 billion in 2010 to 1.38 billion in 2050, but Indian Muslim population will increase by 76 cent from 176million to 310 million in the same period. This means that the largest increase in the Muslim population of South Asia will occur in India.

India will acquire a new global status in terms of the religious composition of its population. Not only will it be the largest Hindu nation but also with a population of 310 Muslims, India will become the largest Muslim nation in the world. While Hindus will remain the majority population at 77 percent, the proportion of Muslims will increase from 14 percent of the population in 2011 to 18 percent in 2050. This means that nearly one out of every five Indians will be a Muslim (p. 2., ibid.)

Disadvantageous dispersal of Indian Muslim population

Unlike the Christians who have their chief minister in Christian majority Indian state, The Indian Muslims have no chief minister. Even the Indian held Kashmir state has been illegally converted into a centrally controlled Union territory.

Indian Muslims live in all parts of the country, but more than half of them live in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, west Bengal, and Kashmir. As per Census of India 2011, States with sizable Muslim population  are : Lakshadweep (64,473, 99%), Indian occupies Kashmir (12, 541, 302, 68%), Assam (31,205,576, 34%), West Bengal (91,279, 27%), Kerala (33, 404,061, 27%), Uttar Pradesh (199,812,341, 19%), , Bihar (104, 099, 542, 17%), Jharkhand (32,988,134, 15%), Uttaranchal (10,086,292,14%), Karnataka 961,095, 297, 13%).Delhi (16,787,941, 13%), Maharashtra (132,374,333, 12%), Gujarat (64,739692, 10%), Rajasthan (68,548,437, 9%).

Legislative voice in the wilderness

Most of the winning candidates are from opposition parties while only one candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 out of 542 seats across the country. But, only one Muslim candidate (a turncoat) could make it to the Lower House (lok Sabha,  house of the people).

Muslims have always been underrepresented in the lok sabha. In the 1980 election, almost 10% of those elected were Muslim. In 2014, it was less than 4%.

As the result of poor representation in the lok Sabha, critical questions about the plight of the Muslim in India are never asked. Most questions about Islam are usually asked by the Hindu legislators. These questions revolve around rituals like hajj. A set of 276,000 questions were asked in parliament from 1999 to 2017. Few questions are asked about plight of the Indian Muslim women, for instance harassment of hijab-wearing women at public places.  The number of Muslim women is less than 1per cent of lok Sabha.

Trend

The majoritarian policies of the BJP are likely to further reduce Muslim representation. Many Hindu nationalists express the idea that Muslims can never be truly Indians because, unlike Hindus, their holy sites are not in India. The BJP’s growth was catalyzed by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. In the 2002 riots, over 1,000 people, most of whom were Muslims, were killed in the state of Gujarat (Modi was then the state’s chief minister).  

The Muslim’s dilemma

During the freedom movement, the Indian Muslim was the avant-garde of the All-India Muslim League. With creation of Pakistan, they lost their charismatic leader, Quaid-e-Azam. The Indian Muslim felt orphaned and leaderless in a Hindu majoritarian state. They had to suffer the travails of living under a cosmetically-secular constitution unable to protect their minority rights.

Historically, Jamiyat Ulema-e-Hind, associated with Deoband seminary, remained affiliated with the Congress. The Jamiyat’s sole preoccupation was religious endowments. Key issues like Organisation of Islamic Countries, Kashmir and Palestine issues remained out of their focus. Similarly, Jamaat-e-Islamai was no longer in a position in the post-Partition India  to argue that secularism and democracy are alien to Islam. And the Muslim should strive for an Islamic state. In the post-Partition India, the prominent Muslim parties, Muslim League and Ittehadul Muslimeen were able to send representatives to the parliament. But, the ML is confined to northern districts of Kerala and the latter retained its political base in Andhra Pradesh, generally Hyderabad. The Indian Muslim who during Pakistan movement fought for a separate homeland is still under burden to prove that they are loyal to India and hence, worthy of Indian citizenship.

Physical insecurity

Indian Constitution and successive governments failed to ensure physical security to the Muslim minority (as also other minorities). Since Partition, over 40,000 Muslim have been killed or injured in anti-Muslim riots. In recent Delhi riots, Muslim houses and shops were bulldozed despite a Supreme Court stay order. The hapless Muslim was later compelled to participate in a joint Hindu-Muslim Taranga (Indian flag) march to show it was all hunky-dory with the law-and-order situation.

The Sachar Committee

This seven-member High Level Committee established in March 2005 by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, highlighted the social marginalisation  of the downtrodden Muslims. The committee was headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar to study the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in India. The Committee, inter alia, recommended setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission to provide a legal mechanism to address discrimination complaints, including in matters such as housing and employment.

The Committee observed:

“Their [Muslims’] conditions are only slightly better than those of Hindu Scheduled Castes/scheduled Tribes and worse than those of Hindus belonging to other backward castes [read mandal Report also]”.

Sachar Committee found that their identity marks such as address and names often lead to suspicion and discrimination by people and institutions. Discriminations are persuasive in employment housing and schooling. Muslim women who wear religious head and face covering can experience particularly acute discrimination. At the same time, most of the fellow non-Muslims fellow citizens regard the socio-cultural characteristics of the Muslim community as the cause of its “backwardness”.

Concluding reflections

The socio-economic condition of the Indian Muslim, like that of the dalit (the downtrodden untouchables) has worsened over the years. The golden words of the Indian Constitution about fundamental rights, justice liberty, equality and fraternity (Articles 25 to 30 in Part III of the Indian Constitution) remain unfulfilled.

The Muslim community should coalesce with other persecuted communities to forge an oppressed-people-of-India movement.

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India unconcerned about US “concern” about worsening religious freedoms

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For the third straight year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended adding India to religious freedom blacklist over alleged abuses. The panel called for

targeted sanctions against India (Religious freedom in India ‘significantly worsened’: US panel, Al Jazeera Apr 25, 2022) Arundhati Roy in a lecture, at the University of Texas at Austin on April 19. (Published April 21, 2022) Focused plight of minorities and curtailment of religious freedom in India. Roy is the author of the recently published Azadi: Fascism, Fiction, and Freedom in the Time of the Virus (Haymarket Books),

Roy drew attention to the increasing numbers of prisoners of (scholars, activists, singers, and lawyers who are known as the Bhima Koregaon). The “intellectual terrorists” or ‘urban naxals” were jailed for protesting against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). An elderly arrestee, Father Stan Swamy died in custody for lack of medi-care. A Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez, was arrested five months ago in Kashmir. He worked for, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. Sin was that he “meticulously documented the saga of torture, enforced disappearances, and death visited upon the people of Kashmir”.

All dissent has been criminalized in India. Roy recalled ‘to mark Ram Navami, violent Hindu mobs armed with swords and staff rampaged through as many as eleven cities. Led by swamis and BJP activists, they entered Muslim settlements, dog-whistling outside mosques, chanting obscene insults, openly calling for the rape and impregnation of Muslim women and the Narsinghar—genocide—of Muslim men”. A Hindu priest Yati  Narsinghar openly called for genocide of the uslims. He exhorted Hindus to arm themselves with attest firearms. A so called Hindu religious parliament (dharma sansad) endorsed his decisions.

Roy reminisced, ‘Any response by Muslims has led to the bulldozing of their property by the government or burning by mobs. Those arrested, almost all Muslims, are accused of conspiracy and rioting, and will likely spend years in jail. One of those charged was in jail on a different charge long before Ram Navami. Another, Wasim Sheikh, accused of pelting stones at the Hindu procession, is a double amputee and has no forearms. Their homes and shops were bulldozed by the government. In some cities crazed TV anchors rode inside the bulldozers.

Though the Supreme Court ordered “status quo”, the bulldozing operation was not halted. Later, the frightened Muslims were compelled to take part in a joint Hindu –Muslim procession to hoodwink the world that it was all hunky dory in Delhi.

BJP leaders who openly provoked Hindu rioters in the run up to the 2020 Delhi massacre were recently acquitted by the Delhi High Court, which held that “there is no criminality when provocative things are said with a smile”. “Some of them are back on the streets of other cities, stoking similar violence. Yet the young Muslim scholar Umar Khalid is in prison. His speech about brotherhood, love and nonviolence upholding the Indian Constitution and delivered during the anti-CAA protests, is, according to a police charge-sheet, a smokescreen for a conspiracy that led to the 2020 Delhi massacre. Apparently, Muslims conspired to riot and kill themselves during Donald Trump’s state visit in order to besmirch India’s good name”.

quest for legitimacy.

The US panel report is just tip of the iceberg

The administration and judiciary act in tandem to stifle the Muslim voice. India’s Supreme Court held that a mosque was not sine qua non of the Muslim mode of worship. Yogi Adityanath monk chief minister of Uttar Prdesh witheld funds for building perimeter walls around Muslim graveyards. Muslims offering prayers at Gurgaon were mercilessly beaten. Yogi ordered a state-wide crackdown on loudspeakers us3ed in mosques upon complaint by Allahabad University vice-chancellor Sangita Srivastava. She had written letters to authorities complaining that the prayer-call (azaan) “shouted” through loudspeakers in a nearby mosque disturbed her sleep. As such, the Muslim prayer call, azaan, should be banned altogether (Mosque lowers loudspeaker volume after Allahabad varsity V-C seeks ban on azaan, The Hindustan Times March 17, 2022).

Though the mosque administration removed the obnoxious loudspeakers, the Uttar Pradesh government under Yogi Adityanath swung into action. It removed 53,942 unauthorised loudspeakers throughout the state declaring them “unauthorised”. No action was ever taken against the Hindu processions for loud music played particularly before the mosques.  During the recent Navratri, or the Hindu New Year, this April, the fanatic Hindus from Karnataka to Himachal Pradesh took out processions with novel –pro-Hindutva music. The youth “danced to DJs, or disc jockeys, spinning electronic music that blended techno and trance, devotional and national, bhakti and vibration, speech, beat and slogan to create a toxic environment of hatred”. The Scroll magazine reportage called it “the music for “Disc Jockey Hindutva” , “assault on  minorities”, “communal tracks, sexist tracks, casteist tracks, racist tracks”. “The sound of Hindutva is no longer Om but it is its obverse: BOOM BOOM BOOM. High on hatred, it dances on the rock and plays on the beat. Hindutva has showed that music can lead to silencing the minority and a festival can be a harbinger of hate” (Brahma Prakash, By taking a leaf out of the fascist playbook, hate music is successfully communalising common sense and culture., The Scroll, April 25 , 2022). Another reportage in the Scroll pointed out” “Government action, including the continued enforcement of anti-conversion laws against non-Hindus, has created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups, including against Muslims and Christians accused of conversion activities”.

Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Aseem Goel took an oath to make India a Hindu nation at an event in Haryana’s Ambala city. The oath was administered by Suresh Chavhanke, the editor-in-chief of the television channel Sudarshan News, who is facing trial in a hate speech case for similar actions at an event held in Delhi in December.

At the event, Chavhanke also said it was unfortunate that a Uniform Civil Code had not been implemented in the country even after 75 years of India’s independence; Hindi daily Dainik Jagran reported.The BJP has plns to outlaw polygamy in Muslim marriage.

Concluding thoughts

India is nowadays hobnobbing with the USA to strengthen the QUAD.  US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month and the two leaders are set to meet in Tokyo next month as part of a summit for the leaders of the Asia-Pacific “Quad” alliance, which also includes Japan and Australia.

The USA is unlikely to punish India with sanctions for its maltreatment of minorities.

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Exploring Yinka Olomojobi’s Daring in “Pentecostalism and the Gospel of the Belly in Nigeria”

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From the Malawian Prophet Bushiri to Brighton Elliot Moyo, the rise of Pentecostalism in Africa has brought with it, a wave of elaborate scams and has provided an outlet for a social catharsis. It has produced pastors who were more illusionists than they were evangelists of the gospel of the truth. In the past, Pentecostalism in Nigeria has seen a bizarre trade of bottles of miracle water, handkerchiefs of deliverance and car stickers of breakthroughs. Miracles packaged like magical solutions are the selling point, and the theatrics of Pentecostal divinity has become an art to be learnt. The image of attention-seeking preachers who contrive dramatic ways to transcend the usual, now defines the superficialness of Pentecostal showmanship. The image of men in fancy suits and deliberate glitz has now become the identity of Pentecostalism on the continent.

From Nigeria to South Africa, general overseers who walk on red carpets and fly private jets and who are worshipped by their members are a sign of the desperation of many Africans to get respite in a divine alternative in the absence of good governance. The commercialization of divine hope across the region is a multi-billion dollar industry that has thrived despite economic recessions across African countries in the wake of COVID-19. In Nigeria, during the COVID-19 lockdown, a Nigerian pastor, Jonhson Suleman had boasted in a video that went viral on social media, that he bought his third private jet during the pandemic and wished the pandemic stayed. The aspiration for non-taxable opulence has inspired many to exploit faith without consequences.

Yinka Olomojobi’s book, Pentecostalism and the Gospel of the Belly dares the norm by criticizing the materialistic pursuit of Pentecostalism in Nigeria. But Nigeria is not the only country where the exploitative materialism of Pentecostalism holds ground. Around Africa, Pentecostalism has grown, with churches springing up everywhere on the continent. Olomojobi’s criticism of Pentecostalism is that it has not attempted to dissociate itself from the practices that cast a shadow on its authenticity. Olomojobi points to the fact that Pentecostalism with its claim to a redemptive value has not saved a country like Nigeria from corruption, just like elsewhere in Africa. What could be worse? Olomojobi might have understated the problem since, many times, it has been seen that many Pentecostal pastors have impliedly supported the ills perpetrated by members of their church and sometimes have been at the fsore of the crime itself. An instance was the pastor, Emmanuel Ekwem, who was caught with drugs at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos by the drug law operatives while trying to board a flight to Kenya for a three-week crusade. Ollomojobi has argued in his book that the obscene materialism that plagues Pentecostalism is a threat to the image of Christianity.

The book is a reminder that the criticisms of Pentecostalism that are lost to the din of rowdy congregations that assert that their exploitation is not the business of outsiders, are well-founded on the logic that the materialism that has come to define modern Pentecostalism is a dangerous one, not just to the church but to societies. Olomojobi’s book holds a distinguished merit as a scholarly exploration of the dangers of a flawed gospel. A gospel that redirects social priorities and dilutes political consciousness is one that will continue to delay the emergence of an African Age of Enlightenment. The book is a manual for the deconstruction of the inanities of Pentecostalism and a firm attempt to force the African Christian to reason beyond the flawed dogmas instituted by eccentric general overseers.

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