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ICC Note:

Christmas in India has changed. Historically, Christmas had been a time of celebration when Christians would take to the street and sing Christmas carols to their neighbors. Now, most Christians are afraid to participate in caroling as it put them directly in the crosshairs of Hindu radicals seeking to snuff out the Christmas season. Religious intolerance in India has increased dramatically in recent years. Attacks on Christians and Muslims has skyrocketed under the current BJP-led government. Will Christmas and other major holidays marked by religious minorities continue to become times of fear as opposed to times of celebration?

12/26/2017 India (Pakistan Today) – After witnessing the horrific plight of Muslims under a Hindu nationalist regime, the Christian community in India is now living under fear that it might be the next target of the rising tide intolerance sweeping the sub-continental nation.

A stark reminder of the difficulties minorities face as a result of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s repressive policies is the preparations surrounding the Christmas season.

An article published on Saturday in the leading United States (US) daily The New York Times (NYT) highlights how a non-Hindu festival that was celebrated by people from all walks of life in India now finds itself caught in the cross hairs of Hindutva.

“Christmas is recognized as a government holiday. But as far-right Hindu groups have gained traction, India has changed. Christmas has now found itself caught in the cross hairs,” the article said of a 80 per cent Hindu-majority country, where Christians make up a meager 2.3 per cent of population of more than a billion people.

Last week in Madhya Pradesh police detained 32 people, including two priests, who were singing Christmas carols after a right-wing Hindu group accused them of forcing religious conversions, the NYT report said.

In another incident, the wife of a prominent politician was condemned online for endorsing a Christmas charity event.

Also in December, a far-right Hindu group sent letters to schools and warned them against holding Christmas functions, saying they would be doing so “at their own risk”.

“We are afraid of Christmas this year,” said AC Michael, the national coordinator of an Indian advocacy group, in a statement.

According to the US daily, some officials in India tried to change the official recognition of a Christmas holiday by the state after PM Modi took over the government in 2014.

It is all part of a broader ideological battle that has produced countless acts of violence and harassment across India based on religious identity, NYT reports.

“Indian cities are said to have become more segregated along religious lines,” says Sanjay Srivastava, a sociology professor at Delhi University.

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