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Why Christians should be wary of voting for BJP


George Abraham 


The BJP in Kerala sounds very inclusive. They hardly direct their ire at the Christian community. Most of their fire is aimed at the 'anti-national elements' in the Muslim community. They also work feverishly to create a wedge between both prominent minority communities through various insidious plans and often with allegations pitting one against the other. Lately, they have been busy recruiting Christians to their cadre to display their diversity credentials. Are any of these overtures genuine? Is the BJP in Kerala a wolf in sheep's clothing just to placate Christians to get a foothold in a State that so far rejected their appeasement until now? A significant attack on the Christian community in Southeastern Gujarat took place under a BJP government in 1998. That was the beginning of a series of riots and persecution of the Christian minority across India. Kandhamal, Orissa in 2008, and Manipur in 2023 witnessed major incidents of violence directed at the community. In between, there were scores of incidents of killings and incarceration of Christian leaders, barging in and disrupting church services, destruction of churches and other properties, cancellation of FCRAs, suspension of Christian charity and educational work, deportation of foreign Christian leaders from the airport, cancellation of OCI cards on spurious grounds are all clear indication of a systematic effort to dehumanize and then marginalize the Christian community from the public square. 

Kerala has been an oasis of communal harmony and friendship over the years, especially post- independence. It has never seen the wholesale atrocities visited upon the North during the time of partition. People are free to worship who they want, eat what they like, and dress the way they please—all manifestations of a people with a free spirit. Religion has been much more of a personal matter and was hardly an issue for peaceful coexistence. However, What the BJP is attempting to do now is to slowly sneak into Kerala, hiding their real color while employing some of their vile tactics to divide and conquer. For an astute observer, what the BJP has done in Kashmir while creating an alliance with PDP, or in Maharashtra with Shiva Sena, or even with Nitish Kumar in Bihar, the lessons are obvious: you give them an inch, they will take a yard! There are enough gullible people, even in minority communities, who fall victim to their predatory games. During its deliberations after independence, the constituent assembly inquired whether the Christian leadership was interested in a particular classification or reservations for benefits. They responded affirmatively, saying no while requesting only complete freedom to worship and manifest their faith without fear. Articles 25 through 27 of the Indian constitution truly reflect their granted wish, and they were elated. However, today, that hard-fought vehicle of protection in the constitution is shredded into pieces as Sanga Parivar organizations are creating havoc attacking Christian churches and institutions across the Hindi heartland. Christians are known for their peaceful coexistence with other communities and hardly pose any threats to national interests. They have established educational and charitable institutions across the nation, providing learning and uplifting generations of people, giving them opportunities for a better way of life. Ancient India practiced fatalism that condemned the poor and disadvantaged because of their sins and misdeeds from their 'previous incarnations'.  Entrenched in the caste system and feudal mindset, the privileged treated the poor lower castes with disdain and hatred. The Christian missionaries' work broke the cycle of deprivation and death for millions and empowered them to join society as fruitful citizens. For the ruling hierarchy, it was hard to stomach seeing their one-time servants walking away and asserting their independence from slavery.  These same folks are regrouping to take the country back to their so-called glorious past. That explains the Modi government's intense focus on attacking Christian institutions using state machinery to minimize their influence or remove them from the public space.

 When they ousted ‘Compassion International’, a Charitable organization from the country, they immediately jeopardized the future of 115,000 students who were well on their way to enlightenment and a brighter future. Today, nobody knows what happened to those children, and does anybody care? For the government and its operatives, the upliftment of the poor is secondary to their odious agenda of eradicating any Christian influence from mainstream society. Many of these charitable, educational, and healthcare efforts have been undertaken with the help of foreign donors, primarily from the West. The governing party knows very well that many of those doors will be shut if their source of funding is denied. That is where the FCRA (Foreign Currency Regulation Act) comes in handy to squeeze and eventually drive them out of business. The ultimate goal is to marginalize the Christian community and its disproportionate influence in society. It is very well within the agenda of RSS following the doctrine defined by M.S. Golwalker that the minorities live in India as second-class citizens subservient to the majority community. 

Modi Administration is on a fast track to implement Golwalker's dream. They are simply brazen and unapologetic for any of their actions in fulfilling the RSS agenda. The external affairs ministry under its self-appointed Pracharak S. Jaisankar thumped his nose at any Western criticisms of India's treatment of its minorities. Immigration and Customs have deported many Christian leaders from foreign countries just because they are 'Christians.' The story of Father Stan Swamy is a case study of how the Modi administration targets Christian Social activists who fight for justice for the poor and oppressed by powerful elites. Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Catholic Jesuit priest and a tribal-rights activist, passed away in prison while awaiting trial. He had been detained on dubious charges of having connections with Maoists. Despite Swamy's age or fragile health due to Parkinsons' disease and repeated appeals from his legal team, the courts consistently denied him bail, allegedly influenced by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). It later emerged that the alleged Maoist letters, the basis for the NIA's charges against Fr. Stan Swamy, were planted by a hacker. Moreover, he was subjected to surveillance through the Pegasus spyware, which the Modi government widely employs to target opposition leaders and dissidents. On May 3, 2023, ethnic violence erupted in Manipur, resulting in the deliberate burning and destruction of 249 churches within 36 hours. 

Since the BJP came to power in Manipur, the RSS has been working to incite the Meitei community to assert Hindutva politics against religious minorities. This has led to the emergence of Meitei-based organizations engaging in increased vigilantism, cultural policing, and anti-minority rhetoric. Hundreds of people died, thousands were injured, and thousands of homes were destroyed. Despite the severity of the situation, Modi neither acknowledged the unrest nor appealed for peace nor visited the region. When a distressing video surfaced, revealing women paraded naked and sending shockwaves across the nation, only then did Modi react with a 36-second response. The Jaisankar and the company wanted to explain this to the whole World as some intra-state tribal rivalry. The very fact that 249 churches belonging to the Meities Christians were also destroyed in the first few days of fighting is a clear testimony to the anti-Christian component and the hidden agenda of the BJP/RSS. After the landslide win in May 2019, the Modi government forced Sister Enedina, an 86-year-old Spanish nun and member of the Daughters of Charity, to leave the country after her visa renewal application was rejected in August 2019. Sister Enedina, a medical doctor, arrived in 1959 and served in Odisha for nearly 50 years. She was given ten days to depart and subsequently left the country. Her final wish was to die and be buried in a country that she served for five decades. However, the Modi government, which, without shame, demanded more H-1 visas from Washington for Indian workers as it is their privilege, didn't even have the basic decency to honor her humble request. 

Modi, as PM in 2014, declared December 25 as Good Governance Day, coinciding with the birthday of former PM Vajpayee. This move, potentially replacing Christmas as a holiday, was led by the Ministry of HRD, organizing activities like essay writing and seminars in schools and colleges. Following protests, the observance persists on December 25, with participation now being voluntary. Most likely, inspired by Modi, the Manipur Government recently declared the same, making Good Friday a working day in a state where 41 percent of the people are Christians, though it was withdrawn later, probably due to the upcoming elections. It is ironic that in America, where Indians constitute only less than two percent of the population, Diwali is a public holiday in New York. The Diaspora that is very vocal on minority rights and religious freedom in the U.S. is quiet on what happens to minorities in India. It is no secret anymore that American Christian leaders are being deported directly from India's airports just because they are Christians. Several months ago, nine leaders from the New York Council of churches headed by Rev. Peter Cook, who traveled to India with valid visas, were denied entry at the Chennai airport in a shocking display of bad faith. And after subjugating them to a grueling 12-hour questioning, they were deported back to the United States. According to one of the team members, the chief of immigration at the airport went as far as to say, "We don't want Christians to come here'! It is widely believed that there are standing instructions with Indian embassies to deny religious visas and even to deny tourist visas to folks directly associated with any Christian Organization. It is just unfair, to say the least, that while many of the Hindutva leaders who have blood on their hands travel to the United States or Europe freely while the Christendom in India that has a 2000-year-old history of peaceful coexistence is forbidden to receive fellow Christians from around the World. It is not only unfortunate but a grave injustice to a minority community that has contributed so much to the enlightenment of the country through Education and the upliftment of the poor and the downtrodden via Social Services.

  The Ministry of Home Affairs revoked the OCI card of an Indian American doctor, citing his involvement in "evangelical and subversive activities "while providing free medical services to the underprivileged in Bihar. The doctor challenged this decision in the Delhi High Court, where Justice Vibhu Bakhru strongly criticized the Ministry of Home Affairs for revoking the OCI card. To undercut the court's ruling, the Modi government changed the OCI rules, forbidding OCIs from engaging in missionary or journalistic activities. The United Christian Forum (UCF), an organization documenting atrocities against Christians in India, has noted a significant increase in violent attacks since Modi came to power in 2014. According to its report, in the first eight months of 2023, there were 525 targeted incidents, with BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh leading with 155 incidents. Additionally, 520 Christians have been arrested and accused of forced conversions, including a couple detained during their wedding ceremony. In light of these increased atrocities, the United States Commission for Religious Freedom has requested to make India a 'country of particular concern.' I have just highlighted above to give a glimpse of what is taking place around us under Modi's watch. If a state like Manipur, with a substantial Christian population, could be ethnically cleansed from its capital, Imphal, even Christians in Kerala ought to be worried and should pay attention to the calamity that would envelop them if the BJP takes root in their state. For every Christian, it is a sobering moment to introspect and make critical decisions as to how they would vote their conscience. The folks among Christians who may play into the hands of the evildoers may eventually have to answer to a higher authority.

George Abraham