UCA News
Contribute

India’s opposition party promises to uphold minority rights

Congress party's manifesto says it will respect and uphold the fundamental right to practice one’s faith
India's Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi (center) waves at supporters during a rally organized by India's opposition coalition comprising various political parties named ‘INDIA’ or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, in New Delhi on March 31.

India's Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi (center) waves at supporters during a rally organized by India's opposition coalition comprising various political parties named ‘INDIA’ or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, in New Delhi on March 31. (Photo: AFP/UCAN files)

Published: April 08, 2024 11:38 AM GMT
Updated: April 08, 2024 11:47 AM GMT

India’s main opposition Congress party has promised in its manifesto for the upcoming general elections to protect the rights of religious minorities, including Christians, to practice their faith and enjoy freedom of choice.

The election manifesto released on April 5 said the Congress “will respect and uphold the fundamental right to practice one’s faith and the rights guaranteed to religious minorities” as enshrined in the Indian constitution.

It further promised to protect minorities' rights to choice of dress, food, language, and personal laws and ensured them a fair share of opportunities in education, healthcare, and employment “without discrimination.”

The Congress also promised steps to ensure the economic empowerment of minorities, which was a necessary step for India to realize its full potential, the manifesto said.

“For Christians, practicing their faith has become dangerous since the year 2014,” said A C Michael, a former member of the Delhi state government’s minority commission.

He said that Christians and Muslims have been suffering various forms of discrimination and physical violence across the country since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power about a decade ago.

“We need a government that respects the guarantees provided to the minorities in the Constitution of India,” Michael said.

Father Babu Joseph, former spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, welcomed the Congress’ “commitment to honor the rights of minorities” and hoped it would instill “confidence in their minds for a more just and fair future.”

The Divine Word priest based in New Delhi told UCA News on April 8 that all citizens, whether in the majority or a minority, have an equal stake in the country's heritage since both contribute towards its development and progress.

The United Christian Forum (UCF), an ecumenical body that records persecution against Christians, said that “147 incidents of violence against Christians were recorded in 2014.”

Such incidents rose to 177 in 2015, 208 in 2016, 240 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 279 in 2020, 505 in 2021, 599 in 2022 and 731 in 2023.

“In the first three months of this year, until March 31, over 200 incidents of violence against Christians have taken place across 19 states in India,” the UCF said.

Christian leaders said the community members were being falsely charged with religious conversion activities and attacked by hardline Hindu groups.

Eleven states in the country, mostly ruled by the BJP, have enacted stringent anti-conversion laws.

“These laws, ostensibly designed to protect religious freedom, are instead being weaponized to target and harass innocent individuals, often under the influence of extremist groups with vested interests,” Michael said.

The Congress party has also promised to bring progressive laws to protect and empower women, Dalits or former untouchables, tribal people, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We will reserve one-half [50 percent] of federal government jobs for women starting in 2025,” the manifesto said.

Christians form 2.3 percent of 1.4 billion people, about 80 percent of whom are Hindus.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia