Christians living in India’s Uttar Pradesh State have come together and written a letter to Prime Minister Modi regarding an increase in persecution in their state. The letter highlights several recent instances of persecution, including an assault on a priest, the imprisonment of another priest, a Christian graveyard being grabbed, and a Bible being desecrated. Many in India have felt Prime Minister Modi has been silent on the issue of religious intolerance since taking office in May 2014. The Prime Minister has said very little on the issue despite a marked increase in instances of religious intolerance taking place under his administration. Will this letter directly from those affected change this situation?
12/8/2015 India (Times of India) – Hundreds of Christians in UP have come together to write a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complaining that attacks against them, “sometimes veiled, sometimes not”, have gone up in the past few months. In the letter, given to district magistrate Pankaj Yadav on Monday, they said a graveyard belonging to them was “forcefully taken over by the Hindu community, a Bible was torn in June and a priest beaten up recently.” In all this, they added, the administration hasn’t been of much help.
The Christians here also protested against the detention of a priest, John Isaac, in neighboring Mawana on charges that he was “indulging in conversion from an illegal building”. One of the leaders said that on Friday sub divisional magistrate at Mawana, Rita Punia, asked the priest to be present at the local police station to explain how he was “building a prayer hall without permission”. However, they alleged, once the priest reached the police station, he was promptly detained.
District president of All India Issai Mahasabha, Robin Nath, who led the delegation to the DM’s office, said, “Since the last couple of months we are being subjected to veiled attacks by right wing organizations. Sometimes the attacks are not so veiled. In Mawana, a priest was threatened and he has been living in constant fear after that. In Kaseru Baksar area our graveyard has been taken over. In June, another priest in Shastri Nagar was thrashed and his Bible torn to shreds. Unfortunately, the police has tried to suppress these incidents and that is why we have written to the PM and sent a copy to the DM.”
When TOI contacted Vijay Joseph, the priest in Shastri Nagar who had been manhandled, he said, “Spiritual discussions among members of various religious groups keep taking place and one such was taking place at a friend’s place in Shastri Nagar when a few members of a right wing group attacked me. They hurled abuses at me and said I was involved in conversion. Later, the police did not allow us to lodge a formal complaint. I had to remain quiet.”
John Issac, meanwhile, said, “We had purchased 182 sq yards of land in 2014 to erect a prayer hall to cater to local Christians who have to travel long distances to attend Church on Sundays. We had already submitted the requisite papers to authorities at the tehsil level for permission. A few local residents, belonging to a certain right wing group, alleged that we were trying to convert people here in an illegal building. The SDM had me detained and threatened to bring down the building.”