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Church in India lauds VIPs' outrage at lynchings

Rights groups say brutal attacks against minorities have constantly risen since pro-Hindu PM Modi came to power in 2014 reporter, New Delhi reporter, New Delhi

Updated: July 29, 2019 07:06 AM GMT
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Church in India lauds VIPs' outrage at lynchings

Members of All India Imams Council demonstrate in New Delhi on July 10 against incidents of mob lynching. (IANS photo)

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Catholic leaders in India have welcomed news that 49 of the country’s most prominent personalities have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek his intervention in religion-based violence.

The letter, from 49 filmmakers, activists and scholars, said the brutal attacks were taking a toll on the country and of particular concern was the use of “Jai Shri Ram,” a slogan hailing Hindu Lord Ram, as a “war cry.”

Media reports said Hindu radicals had attacked religious minorities and forced them to shout the slogan as proof of their acceptance of Hindu culture and religion. Some of them ended up in lynchings.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accused of making the Hindu god a central theme of its politics and has been promising for years to build a temple for him at the disputed site of Ayodhya, believed to be his birthplace.

The party also has been promising the return of the Ram Rajya — or Hindu Rule — in India.

“The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately,” the celebrities’ letter said.

Reports by international rights organizations say mob-lynching incidents have constantly risen ever since Modi came to power in 2014.

Since 2015, at least 47 people have been lynched across India in cow-related incidents, according to Indiaspend, a data journalism website. More than 300 people have been attacked, about 70 percent of them Muslims, with the rest mostly Dalit people or Christians.

Mob attacks are often carried out in the name of the revered cow of Hinduism, with victims attacked on suspicion of consuming or carrying beef or slaughtering or transporting cows for slaughter.

The celebrities said they were “shocked to learn” from government data “that there have been no less than 840 instances of atrocities against Dalits in the year 2016 and a definite decline in the percentage of convictions.”

“You have criticized such lynchings in parliament Mr. Prime Minister, but that is not enough... We strongly feel that such offenses should be declared non-bailable,” the letter said.

The Delhi Archdiocese welcomed the move, calling it an “important measure.”

“It’s extremely important to raise one’s voice against such acts of mob violence targeted against vulnerable groups and communities,” said Delhi Archdiocesan spokesperson Father Savarimuthu Sankar.

Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Bombay Archdiocese, told  that “any act of violence perpetrated in the name of religion is not in the interest of any country.”

“It is high time the leaders of the majority Hindu community stood up and spoke very clearly about the real tenets of Hinduism,” he said.

“Fringe groups should not be seen as [representing] the entire Hindu community. Such groups are in every religion and so are the radicals. But the entire community should not be blamed for the acts of a handful of people.”

Allen Francis, a rights activist based in New Delhi, told that the letter should serve as an “eye-opener” so the government realizes that “something is terribly going wrong in this country.”

“You can have any religious belief or no religious belief but that should not be a reason to kill anyone. It is very unfortunate that cows are nowadays more protected than human beings in India. Somebody had to stand up and speak,” said Francis.

The government must implement laws to stem the "epidemic of lynching” that target “poor Muslims Christians and (socially poor) Dalits,” he said.

Hard-line Hindu groups that aspire to build a nation of Hindu dominance claim that India is their land and that religious and ethnic minorities should accept Hindu supremacy if they wanted to remain in the country.

Hindus form 966 million — or 80 percent — of India’s population of 1.3 billion. Muslims account for 172 million or 14 percent, while Christians comprise 29 million or 2.3 percent.

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