Christians in India Fear Dark Days Ahead if Hindu Nationalists Take Over Government

ICC Note:

With India’s national elections in full swing, many Christians are looking to the uncertain future the results of the elections may bring. Chief among Christians’ concerns is the rise of the BJP party, known for its Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalism continues to be the driving force of Christian persecution in India. Believing that India is a nation for Hindus only, supporters of this belief system have used discrimination, abusive laws and violence in an attempt to drive Christianity out of “Hindu areas.” Please pray for Christians as they go through these uncertain times.  

4/9/2014 India (Charisma News) – India is gearing up for the largest show of democracy on earth. Ahead of national elections, the silent Christian community in India—reportedly 2.3 percent of its 1.2 billion people in 2001, though experts say this was an underestimate—has become restive and alert.

An electorate of 814 million—much more than the population of the whole of Europe—is eligible to cast the ballot in the staggered polls (scheduled in nine phases from April 7 to May 12) to choose India’s 14th Parliament.

The national alliance of all the mainline churches, the National United Christian Forum, has come out with an appeal: the Catholic Church (which accounts for two thirds of the 28 million plus Christians) has issued a voter guideline, and regional ecumenical Christian bodies have also come out with similar advisories in the last few days.

Two major alliances—the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the “secular” Congress Party (that has ruled the nation for the past two terms) and the National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—are the main protagonists.

Apart from these two alliances, 25 or so regional parties make the combat tougher for each of the 543 seats in “Lok Sabha” (“House of the People”—the lower House of the Indian parliament) that will decide who will rule India for the next five years.

With the opposition alliance led by the BJP (known for espousing a Hindu nationalist agenda) being projected by the pre-poll surveys as front runner in elections that are forecast to produce a fractured verdict, there is growing unease in the Christian community.

This is written large in the voter guidelines and statements the churches have made in the run-up to the elections.

The Catholic Church calls for prayer “for divine assistance for all the citizens of India so that we may elect the best persons … uphold the democratic and secular character of our great nation and selflessly work for the peace and prosperity of all the people of India.”

In fact, the churches’ penchant for “parties upholding a secular character” began with the emergence of the BJP as a major player in Indian politics from the 1990s.

2014’s vociferous BJP campaign has been built around its “mascot” Narendra Modi, chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, who is projected as prime minister in waiting.

While the Hindu nationalist lobby hails Modi as an able administrator who can accelerate India’s sagging economy, secular parties dub him as a polarizing personality. He carries the stain of the 2002 carnage of over 1,200 Muslims in Gujarat—the homeland of Mahatma Gandhi—when Hindu mobs targeted Muslims following the torching of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims.

The connivance and inaction of the police under Modi’s command, and his persistent refusal to express regret for the deaths, has made Modi the target of many secular groups.

“There is (also) a fear in the minds of (Christians),” admitted the Rev. Roger Gaikwad, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), a network of 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches. “Some fear that difficult are days ahead.”

However, outspoken Jesuit activist Father Cedric Prakash, based in Gujarat state, asserted that “the fears are misplaced. The Modi hype is built on propaganda. Once the mask is exposed, the hype will be gone.”

In fact, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Congress Party)—known for his moderate reaction to his opponents—made an uncharacteristic comment in the run-up saying “It will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.”

Despite a media blitz over Modi’s much acclaimed “Gujarat model of development” (in which the state he governs has seen fast economic growth), Father Prakash noted that “contrary to the rise in economic data, the social indicators rank badly here.”

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