Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s one day fast of penitence on January 30 is reflective of the widespread hyprocrisy in the ranks of the Indian ruling elite. The fast, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of Karamchand Gandhi’s assassination, was meant to expiate for the horrible death of an Australian Christian missionary and his two young sons in Orissa on January 23.
Graham Staines, 58, and his sons, Philip, 10 and Timothy, 8, were burnt alive when Hindu fascists doused their jeep in which they were sleeping with kerosene and set it ablaze. When the three terrified occupants tried to break out of the vehicle, the Hindu mob pushed them back into the burning inferno.
Staines’s ‘crime’ was that he had devoted 34 years of his life to serving lepers in India. A week prior to Christmas, Hindu terrorists had attacked and burnt churches in Gujarat’s Dangs district but no one was killed there.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose allies perpetrated the Orissa horror, immediately pronounced the attack as ‘an isolated incident.’ How isolated was the attack? There have been 108 attacks against Christians in India over the past year. On February 3, a nun was gangraped in the same locality where Staines and his children were burnt alive and on February 6, a Christian boy and his sister were murdered.
The number of anti-Muslim attacks is more than three times higher. These are euphemistically dismissed as ‘communal riots.’
Vajpayee’s fast of penitence must be viewed against the backdrop of his statements. When he visited Dangs district on January 10, he called for a ‘national debate to re-examine the freedom of religious conversations,’ as reported by the Times of India on January 11, 1999. Vajpayee went further. He said ‘religious conversion by Christian missionaries was at the root of all the trouble in the district,’ (Hindu, January 11, 1999).
Many observers saw this as a green light to his Hindu terrorist allies to continue with their anti-Christian crusade which resulted in the tragic deaths of Staines and his two children. On January 29, some 3,000 Muslims and Christians, perhaps for the first time, took out a joint procession in Delhi denouncing the government’s failure to curb attacks on minorities. Even as Christians were being targeted, Muslims were being killed by the Hindu terrorists as was witnessed in Surathkal, Karnataka (see Crescent International, January 16-31, 1999).
Vajpayee’s assertion that ‘religious conversion by Christian missionaries was at the root of all the trouble’ was dismissed by Delhi’s Archbishop Alan de Lastic. He said that had Christians being involved in conversions, there would be 350 million, not a merely 23 million Christians in India.
The role of Christian missionaries in India also needs a closer look. The best known missionary, of course, was Mother Teresa, who died in August 1997. She had devoted her entire life to looking after destitute children in the slums of Calcutta. In a letter to Dalit Voice (February 1-15, 1999), Ebe Sunder Raj of India Missions Association, gave some statistics pertaining to the work of Christian missionaries. He wrote: ‘The 2.3 percent Christians in the Indian population cater to 20 percent of all primary education in India, 10 percent of all the literacy and community healthcare, 25 percent of all existing care of destitutes and orphans, 30 percent of all the handicapped, lepers and AIDS patients etc.’
These are very impressive figures. So why are the Hindu terrorists targeting the very people who are helping the most deprived of the Indian society? The answer is that the Hindu terrorists belong to the upper caste. The oppressed and downtrodden in India belong to the lower castes. The upper caste Hindus do not wish to see members of the lower castes getting educated otherwise they will begin to demand their fair share as well as question why they are being deprived of their basic rights.
According to the Indian constitution, discrimination on the basis of caste is forbidden. The reality is otherwise. Prejudice cannot be erased from people’s minds simply by legislation. It requires the full force of the law to punish those who violate these rules. Since power has resided in the hands of the Brahmins - the tiny class of parasites sitting at the apex of the caste pyramid - they have made sure that the lower castes continue to suffer the indignity and humiliation they have endured for millennia.
Despite much talk about Indian secularism, freedom and equality, the upper castes do not marry from the lower castes, nor allow their daughters to be married by members of the lower caste. Caste
discrimination--religiously-sanctioned apartheid--is a permanent feature of life in India, and is widespread.
Not only is such discrimination tolerated in India, even the west remains silent about it. One can imagine the rucous that would have erupted had a Christian missionary being killed in Pakistan or some other Muslim country. The US has in fact passed a bill into law under which it will impose sanctions on any country where Christians are persecuted. There is little chance of this law being applied to India.
In fact, at the time when Christians in India were protesting against their persecution at the hands of Hindu terrorists, the US was busy huddling with Indian officials offering them partnership in trade, commerce and technology. Like the Christian Palestinians suffering at the hands of the Zionist occupiers, the Christians of India, too, can forget about any help from the west. The west’s concern about Christians is aroused only if it undermines Muslims.