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Compass Direct (04/27/06) – Dr. John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, has lodged an official complaint against L.K. Advani, former deputy prime minister and current leader of the opposition in Parliament, for hurting the religious sentiments of Christians.

Filed on April 12, the complaint is based on a comment Advani made regarding the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in early April. In his remarks, aired on national television, Advani said, “We [the BJP] have been crucified, and that too on a Friday, but we were resurrected, and that too on a Sunday.”

His comments referred to the routing of the BJP during the last general elections – held on a Friday in April 2004 – and to face-saving victories for the BJP in recent Sunday elections in Gujarat and Rajasthan states. Dayal felt the comments, made repeatedly in the week before Easter, were a deliberate insult to Christianity.

Dayal claims that sections 153(a) and 295(a) of the Indian Penal Code, which make religious insensitivity a criminal offense, have been applied to Christians, often on spurious grounds, but not to Hindu extremists who have publicly insulted the Christian faith.

For example, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of Emmanuel Mission International, was arrested on March 16 on charges of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. Several other EMI staff members were arrested in connection with the book Haqeeqat, found on EMI premises, which allegedly denigrated Hindu gods. (See Compass Direct, “Indian Court Grants Anticipatory Bail to EMI Founder,” April 25.)

There are no known cases of Hindu extremists being arrested for hurting the religious sentiments of Christians.

Dayal lodged his complaint with police in Delhi and Gujarat .

Unfazed by the accusations, Advani made a public statement on April 17, claiming that a foreign-funded conversion campaign by evangelical groups was threatening Hindu society and demanding nationwide legislation to prevent forced or fraudulent religious conversions.

Advani particularly targeted Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy of Andhra Pradesh state, claiming the state had seen a huge rise in conversions to Christianity since the advent of Reddy’s government. “I strongly condemn this campaign, which poses a grave threat to Hindu society,” Advani said.

Noted human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash told Compass, “The mindset of people like Advani clearly demonstrates that there is absolutely no respect or space for those belonging to other faiths. That Advani is greatly responsible for the communal [religious] tensions in this country has never been in doubt. That he chooses to make anti-Christian and inflammatory statements is also nothing new.”

Prashant continued, “It would be absolutely surprising if the police in Gujarat take cognizance of the complaint lodged against him. Many of the police subscribe to Advani’s ideology.”

Widespread Discrimination

Indira Iyengar, a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, has also lodged a complaint about the state government’s attitude towards Christians.

“The negligent attitude of the administration, based on the dictates of the ruling party and fundamentalist groups, is the main cause of the rise in atrocities against Christians in the state,” Iyengar wrote in a letter to the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh on Monday (April 24).

Crimes and atrocities against Christians have risen 56 percent in the first quarter of this year, as compared with the same period in 2005.

Iyengar pointed out that Christians in the state were being prevented from holding meetings in their homes. On April 18, Pastor Avinash Lal and six other Christians were arrested for holding “cottage meetings.” Hindu worship rituals, however, have been held in private homes for centuries and continue without disturbance.

Christians in Jabalpur , one of the largest centers of Christianity in North India , are also facing tough times. The Jabalpur Christian Conference issued a press statement on April 20 expressing grave concern at the mistreatment of Christians in the first quarter of the year by police and Hindu extremists. In several cases police had raided the homes of Christians, beating and arresting them for holding worship meetings.

Hindu extremist groups such as the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and Dharma Sena, emboldened by police actions, had torn up posters of Jesus Christ, publicly insulted Christian scriptures, destroyed Christian property and physically threatened Christians.

On Sunday (April 23), an edition of the Organiser, the mouthpiece of the extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, carried an article by VHP International President Shri Ashok Singhal accusing the church of using fraudulent means to convert people, especially in tribal areas, and demanding a total ban on conversions in India .