Despite the presence of ISIL in Iraq, the Christian minority in Baghdad were reported to have defiantly gathered for Christmas eve mass. Their situation is far from ideal. However, compared to the Christian minority in India, they might want to count their blessings.
Since the election of Mr. Narender Modi as PM of India, Hindu hardliners have been demanding the transformation of India into a Hindu nation. Their interpretation of a "Hindu nation" means having no minority at all. The head of an extremist Indian organization called World Hindu Council (also known as Visva Hindu Parshad or VHP in the Indian language) said they plan "to take the percentage of Hindus to 100 percent in the country." They are demanding all school text books to be rewritten and the Hindu scriptures declared as the national holy books.
Hindu right-wing groups, Rashterya Swaywak Sangh (RSS) and its branch, Dharam Jagran Manch (DJM), allied with the Modi's ruling Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) have conducted a series of ceremonies across India over the past week to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism through extreme coercion. Muslims make up 14% of the Indian population and Christians are 2.3%.
In early December 2014, more than 300 Muslims were converted at the Taj Mahal in Agra, who later spoke, saying they converted to Hinduism out of sheer fear after being threatened with violence and dire consequences of communal riots. They were also promised extra monthly food via ration cards if they left Islam and converted to Hinduism. Most of them were poor, living in slums. A Muslim woman and victim of forced conversion stated on condition of anonymity "We were forced to convert. We were promised our identification and ration cards will be made at the camp." Another person stated that they were tricked and called to attend a gathering without being told that it was a conversion ceremony; after arriving they were trapped and told that were converted into Hindus whether they liked it or not. Along side the duress and exploitation, the attitude is just as humiliating aimed at belittling Muslims by selecting the Taj Mahal as the venue for such oppression. At present, it's mostly the impoverished strata of the Indian Muslim community that is being subjected to this very primitive form of tyranny and abuse. It should be an eye-opener for the upper class as well. When the frightful combination of illiteracy and bigotry takes roots at governmental levels, it doesn't take long to become a part of the country's official system and a nationalistic issue.
Over the last few days the bigots of VHP forcibly converted at least 250 Christians into Hindus in the Indian states of Kerala and Gujrat. Against the claims of a Hindu official in Gujrat, a Christian priest asserted that every Christian was converted by force, none by "personal choice." All forced converts were ordered to throw their crufix-pendants into the fire which were replaced with lockets or medallions with symbols of the Hindu religion. Celebrating Christmas has been getting increasingly hard for Christians in India. This year it's been still tougher. Early December 2014, a Roman Catholic church was burned by a Hindu mob. The injuries and death toll were never reported. A fortnight later, a group of Christians in India's southern city of Hyderabad (which is considered one of Indian's most unprejudiced and liberal places) were attacked while singing Christmas carols. The education minister of Modi's government wants to abolish December 25 as a holiday for Christians. In the city of Aligarh, some insane Hindu zealots linked to RSS and DJM publicly announced its plan for mass forced conversions of Christians on Christmas day of 2014. Later the district administration cancelled this embarrassing event and arranged for heavy security measures in the city. On Christmas day, police officers and security vans were posted outside Aligarh's churches for fear of extremist Hindu mobsters.
RSS is supposed to be the "ideological wing" of Modi's BJP party who has remained silent and done nothing to stop hardliners of his party from forcibly converting religious minorities to Hinduism. His complacency and that of most of the nation makes the situation awfully alarming. It's no secret in India that he is one of the masterminds of forced conversions, just as he masterminded the Gujrat massacre in 2002. Some parliamentarians expressed serious concern, though India ceased to be a secular state years ago contrary to the empty claims of its constitution.
The attitude keeps getting endlessly disgusting as well as preposterous. RSS and hardline Hindus are calling this campaign of forced conversions "homecoming" claiming that all minorities who were Hindus hundreds of years ago are now returning to Hinduism. Absolutely repugnant! And it's a stark indication of the rising concept that having an Indian passport doesn't make one an Indian any longer, unless they aren't Hindus. It has already become much of the country's widespread mentality, and an extension of its practice of state sponsored terrorism from provincial to a national classification and magnitude.
The RSS and BJP fanatics are not targeting the Sikh and Buddhist minorities of India. They are hellbent upon converting only Muslims and Christians. Wikipedia states that a man by the name Rajeswar Singh (apparently a Sikh) who is in charge of the forced conversion programs in the Indian city of Aligarh has been appealing for monetary help to further push ahead the conversion campaign. He said that each Hindu activist who works to convert Muslims incurs a cost of $8,000 and those who convert Christians require $3,200 each. The same man stated that in 2014 his group had converted a total of 40,000 Muslims and Christians into Hinduism and the target for 2015 was 100,000.
Not to get on the wrong side of the international community (though the international community has been consistently and purposely blind to India's radicalism), BJP and RSS claim they are against forced conversions while on the other hand, their own party members including the RSS chief have been persistently asserting that India is only for Hindus, justifying mass and forced conversions. None of the Hindu bigots responsible for these mandatory conversions have yet been arrested nor penalized.
No doubt every society has its own "Talibans" and what's going on in India is even worse than Talibanism. Those who don't find this ugly bigotry plainly nauseating should not be condemning the sickness of ISIL either. That would be undiluted pecksniffery!
Source of image: Al-Arabiya
Story on Yahoo.ca
Story on Zawya (Thompson Reuters)
Washington Post on fear of Christians in India
Wikipedia on forced conversions in India