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Church leaders demand ban on Hindu groups

Extremists accused of provoking increased violence

Justice Michael Saldanha addresses reporters Justice Michael Saldanha addresses reporters
  • Priscilla Pinto, Mumbai
  • India
  • February 4, 2013
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Catholic leaders have called on the Indian government to ban two radical Hindu organizations, claiming they are behind a series of attacks on Christians.

Joseph Dias, who heads the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum, told ucanews.com on Monday that his organization has urged federal Home Minister Sushikumar Shinde to immediately ban the Sanathan Sanstha (Eternal Forum) and Abhinav Bharat (New India).

Both organizations are affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS- National Volunteer Corps,) the umbrella body of right-wing Hindu organizations that works to make India a Hindu nation.

Dias connected anti-Christians attacks with Hindu fanaticism and said, “almost every day there is an attack on a minority Christian community in some part of the country."

He said his seven-year-old organization has listed 250 cases of attacks on Christians across the country in 2012 alone, "ranging from new Christian converts being forced to drink cow’s urine to the rape and murder of Christian clergy and Dalit Christian minors.”

Michael Saldanha, a Catholic and retired judge of the Bombay and Karnataka high courts, also supported the ban but said he believes that Christian leaders' inaction should take some of the blame for the increasing number of attacks.

 “The Christian community has become a soft target because our cardinals, bishops and clergy are not willing to protest strongly to the government,” Saldanha told ucanews.com.

He added that if senior clerics were to stand firm and "maintain zero tolerance" against attacks on Christians, "the rising violence against Christian communities could be curbed drastically.”

Dias said a close study of the list shows that Maharashtra state in western India is emerging as the next most likely flashpoint. The state comes fourth in a ‘league table’ of recent attacks on Christians, with Karnataka, Chhattisgarh then Madhya Pradesh above it.

These three states are governed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, while Maharashtra is lead by a Congress-led coalition.

Maharashtra’s home minister R. R. Patil has now urged the federal government to ban the two organizations for indulging in sectarian violence, a move which Dias said is “justified.”

His Catholic Secular Forum has produced a paper entitled "The 2012 Christian Persecution In India Report," based on input from published media, NGOs and Forum representatives in various parts of the country.

A copy of the report has been presented to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. 

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