Tuesday, May 5, 2015

RLPB 308. India: consequences of Hindutva propaganda

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 308 | Wed 06 May 2015

INDIA: CONSEQUENCES OF HINDUTVA PROPAGANDA
By Elizabeth Kendal

Hindutva (militant Hindu nationalism) propaganda calls for Hindu solidarity to ward off the threat posed by Christianity, which is slandered and vilified as an existential threat to Indian culture, social cohesion and national security. Hindutva activists target Adivasis ('first inhabitants': members of indigenous tribes) for conversion to Hinduism (pursuing religious conversion for political gain). It is to that end they also seek to eliminate Christian witness and conversion. With Hindutva protagonists now dominating power in India, it is little wonder that paranoia-inspired violence with impunity is on the increase. Unless there is change, this will only get worse.

ASSAM, in India's far north-east, has a major problem with mass illegal immigration from Bangladesh, with an estimated 6,000 Bengali Muslims arriving in Assam every day. Eleven of Assam's 27 districts now have Muslim majorities and as Muslims impose their culture and compete for land, jobs and power, ethnic-religious tensions escalate, making Assam fertile ground for Hindutva activism. Virtually all Assam's Christians are Adivasis (first inhabitants). In December 2014, after a resident of Amtola village, Golpara District, was healed of cancer through Christian prayer, five families from the Rabha clan began attending worship services. Since then, the Amtola church -- particularly the new Christians -- have faced hostility, including regular attacks which the police have ignored.
Morning Star News
Morning Star News reports that on 17 April Christians were eating together that evening after meeting for prayer when a mob of some 100 Hindus armed with sticks, swords and stones burst in and started beating the believers. The attack was led by members of the extended Rabha clan targeting their families, incited by Hindutva elements to punish their family members. At least 15 believers (all from the Rabha families) received nasty upper body and head injuries. While most were treated in Golpara local district hospital, three -- including Pranita Rabha (7) -- had to be rushed to the state capital for treatment at the Guwahati Medical College. Pranita has serious chest injuries and blood clots on her brain. The Christians' homes were also attacked, with five totally destroyed. All Amtola's Christians have fled; the Rabha families have been placed in a safe-house; and the village has been deemed unsafe for Christians.

JHARKHAND, in India's northern tribal belt, is known for its grinding poverty and its Naxalite (Maoist) insurgency. [Maoists in Nepal and India are not driven by ideological as much as by their ardent opposition to the systematic racism and gross inequity of the Hindu caste system.] In Jharkhand, nearly one-third of the population is Adivasi, making this a catchment area for Hindutva activists and a conflict zone for Naxalites.
UCAnews
In recent months, Hindutva activists with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP: All Indian Student Council) have been escalating their attacks on church-run schools in Jharkhand. The ABPV, which is the student wing of the RSS (a Hindu paramilitary), claims to be protesting the schools' high fees but church-run schools receive no government assistance.  On 17 April a mob of some 60 ABVP activists scaled the perimeter wall and broke the gates of Holy Cross School in Hazaribagh city. Waving ABVP flags and chanting Hindu slogans, they burst into the principal's office where they threw and smashed furniture and abused Sister Clerita De Mello for not displaying an image of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. The ABVP activists then proceeded down the road to St Xavier's School where they were met by police who arrested them when they refused to disperse.
click on map to enlarge
Whilst the BJP (Hindu nationalist) state government insists that religion played no part in the attack, Fr Gerald D'Souza, an education advocate, believes these increasingly routine attacks are designed to drive churches out of education.

CHHATTISGARH, like Jharkhand, is also in the tribal belt, desperately poor and at the heart of the Naxalite insurgency. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Canada has just confirmed the martyrdom of Christian evangelist 'Brother Sadavir', in Dantewada which adjoins the volatile Bastar region in southern Chhattisgarh. Despite being attacked in 2010 and 2012, Brother Sadavir (who was married with three young children) refused to stop sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. Then, at 1am on 22 January, a mob of around 200 angry men came to his family home and took him away, telling his wife, Jani, that she could bring him food in the morning. When Jani went into the forest the next morning, along with Sadavir's mother and sisters, the mob tied Sadavir to a tree and beat his legs to a pulp with bamboo canes. Only then did they kill him by piercing his chest with a 'trishula' (a three pronged Hindu trident). Brother Sadavir was killed by a mix of Koya tribesmen and Naxalites. The Koya, who are protesting conversions, got the Naxalites on side by telling them that Brother Sadavir was paying people to convert (i.e. he was exploiting their poverty) and was betraying Naxals to the Hindu nationalist government. Both charges were false. Refusing to release the body to the family, the killers then burned Sadavir's remains so to destroy all evidence.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* whether by choice (a shift in conscience) or by virtue of increased international pressure, there will  be a commitment amongst local governments, business leaders and police in India to reject violence, uphold the law and promote civility and decency.

'I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)

* God will raise up voices of peace and reason at every level throughout India, equipping them and blessing their advocacy for the sake of the Church. [See prophecy regarding Cyrus the Persian in Isaiah 45:1-7.]

* the Lord will refine and sanctify the Indian Church; may the Holy Spirit move powerfully in believers facing intensive pressure, so they will be assured in their hearts that Jesus will never leave or abandon them.

* the Lord Jesus Christ will continue to build his Church in India, and that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:18 ESV); may many more Indians find peace, grace and dignity in Jesus as he adds to their number daily. (Acts 2:42-47)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
HINDTUVA PROPAGANDA FUELS VIOLENCE IN INDIA

Hindutva (militant Hindu nationalism) propaganda calls for Hindu solidarity to ward off the threat posed by Christianity, which is vilified as an existential threat to Indian culture, social cohesion and national security. Hindutva activists target tribal people for conversion into Hinduism, pursuing religious conversion for political gain. To that end they also seek to eliminate Christian witness and conversion. With Hindutva protagonists now dominating power, it is little wonder that paranoia-inspired violence with impunity is on the increase. If this does not change, it will only get worse. While persecution is on the increase nationwide, the most volatile regions are those with underlying ethnic-religious tensions, like Assam, and those with large tribal populations, such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Please pray for the Church in India.

------------------------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).