This is the second and concluding part of a 2-part article describing how Indian Christian groups are masters in developing convenient narratives, manufacturing perceptions subtly demonizing their opponent i.e. Hindu organizations. In the previous part we saw seven cases where such perception manipulation was carried out by Christian groups. We will look into more such cases now.
The year was 2014 and India was anxiously waiting for the May 2014 general elections. 10 year UPA rule had created strong anti-incumbency feelings. The then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was forcefully presenting himself as the future Prime Minister of India. Indians were well convinced that the challenge posed by Modi machinery was going to topple UPA’s regime. So the anti-Modi and anti-Hindutva forces had begun to tune their voices at great pitch.
They unleashed virulent propaganda against BJP and RSS predicting a grim and nightmarish future for minorities in India, if Modi managed to wrest power from Manmohan Singh.
Christian News published a report, “What Happens to Christians if Hindu Nationalist Wins Election?” It said the silent Christian minority community in India had become ‘restive and alert’. The report which refers to Christians as ‘silent community’ immediately makes reference in next para about “appeal” released by their respective denominations and apex bodies. The list includes the national alliance of all the mainline churches, the National United Christian Forum, the Catholic Church (two thirds of about 28 million Indian Christians) and regional ecumenical Christian bodies. The voter guideline and advisories issued by all Christian groups includes, appeal to common Christians about ‘upholding the democratic and secular character of our great nation’. It further quotes, ‘The churches’ penchant for “parties upholding a secular character” began with the emergence of the BJP as a major player in Indian politics from the 1990s’. The report describes Modi as a mascot of Hindutva having who was behind the murder of 1200 Muslims. Thus, Christians have no respect for independent inquiries conducted by secular UPA government which absolved Modi from charges after thorough investigation!
Rev. Roger Gaikwad, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), a network of 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches further states, “Some fear those difficult days ahead.” What is the reason behind this fear? No need to mention it as, they are not bound to answer it!
Then there is another wave of allegation without substantiating it with concrete facts and figures. Report reads, “States under BJP rule have routinely witnessed a rise in incidents of anti-Christian violence, while some BJP State governments have shown eagerness to rush through anti-conversion legislation. Assailants in brutal attacks on Christians and the rape of nuns have been defended by BJP leaders” Every allegation of rape of nuns has either been proved false or rapes were committed by Christians as inter Church rivalry, but still it gets mentioned everywhere attributing it to Hindu groups and BJP government. Then what is the problem with anti-conversion law, which prohibits conversion by fraud, deceit and allurement? If you are not employing these malpractices and your theological appeal is causative agent behind conversions then what are they afraid of?
Another Christian website Morning Star News published a report, “Upcoming Election in India Brings Fear, Insecurity for Christians amid Unrelenting Persecution”. The report says, “With a report showing Christians in India faced at least 151 attacks last year, predictions that a Hindu nationalist party will win a general election beginning in April are stoking fears of more violence.” That means the violence occurred under UPA rule, then why do they fear the BJP? When there was secular government at the helm, why blame Hindu groups for violence?
The New Delhi-based Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) had released “Partial List of Atrocities on the Indian Christian Community 2013” just few days before nine-phase parliamentary elections; the report says number of attacks could be much higher than the 151 recorded. Here see the timing of the report. It was deliberate attempt to create fear psychosis among Christians and Muslims to possibly warn them of BJP and to prevent them from voting in their favour. Also, such reports are used to exert negative impact on Hindu voters too, who have no idea about ground reality. The report once again reminds the readers about the Gujarat riots, putting death toll of Muslims to 2000. The Christian sources seem to have no consensus about how many Muslims actually died in Gujarat. Few claim it to be 800, CBCI says it is 1200 and this one 2000.
Another prototype allegation is Hindutva groups want to make minority second order citizen, which is repeated here.
Rev. Richard Howell, the then general secretary of the EFI, predicted that Modi’s rise had led to “fear and insecurity” among Christians. “The perception among certain pockets of the Christian community is that the scale of persecution of Christians will increase.” What does mean by ‘Certain Pockets’? Where do these pockets fear Modi?
John Dayal enters the fray and says, “The record of Mr. Modi and of his party is terrible as far as religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, are concerned.” How does he define “terrible”? Where is the proof? No one needs to prove it, as John Dayal and his company has immunity, you can’t ask him questions.
After lambasting, grilling and hitting hard the RSS conglomerate, here is the conclusion, “Hindu nationalists appear to be emboldened by Modi’s rise, and Christians fear his possible victory will encourage them to launch attacks with increased intensity, frequency and assurance of impunity”. Once again superficial allegations, without solid proof!
Manipulated Perception: Just go on repeating prototype allegation, that minorities are not safe under BJP’s Hindu rule, continue to yell loudly again and again, go on publishing news reports expressing fear that Christians will be targeted once BJP wrests power and most importantly, don’t utter a single word about it after dust settles down! Simple but effective technique!
Post Modi- 2014 Election Results– After May 2014 general election result in which BJP registered landslide victory; clear majority in 30 years, prominent Christian news portal UCA News published report authored by John Dayal, self-styled vanguard of minority rights and quintessential Hindu basher; within just 48 hours of the results. Report was titled, ‘India’s religious minorities wary in wake of Modi’s landslide win’
The report declares RSS an extremist group. Dayal says, “Modi’s stunning victory brings with it some dangerous baggage, most prominently the stranglehold that the extremist Hindu group called the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh has on the new ruling party”
All India Christian Council was also unambiguous in scolding BJP. It released statement after election results, which read, “We respect democracy and the voice of the people. We will have to find out how we can tell the new government of our problems and our fears, and our expectations of a strong secularism, and hold it accountable for its misdeeds whenever it falters in giving us our security and our freedom of faith”. AICC would hold Modi and BJP answerable and accountable to everything that would happen to Christians in the next 5 years.
John Dayal left no stone unturned in declaring and proving that BJP’s new government would definitely bring doomsday for Christians!
Let’s have a look at My Christian Daily, portal from California, USA. It published report after a week of general election results in May 2014 titled, “India’s Christians Fear Rise In Persecution Under BJP”. As per Pastor Ronald John the “persecution of Christians will increase under the BJP-led government”. What was the baseline to declare this? Nothing, it was just beginning of the series of statements which were deliberately poured in international media to corner RSS and BJP and to stress on Indians that they had democratically elected a demon, who was going to destroy India’s multicultural, plural and tolerant society. He declares, “Christians in India are already gripped with fear and concern over the election results. Hindu nationalist groups will take advantage of the situation and use it to attack churches and members of the Christian community”. If indeed the Hindu groups had such a strong network, plans and will-power to bump off minorities en-masse, Indian minorities would have been finished during Vajpayee rule. Why didn’t it happen? Can Christians answer this question?
CA Daniel, the president of the National Congress of Indian Christians, throws brazen comments, simply declaring Christians are “not safe” under BJP rule. He didn’t take the pain to explain, what is going to happen to Indian Christians under BJP rule. He further states, “There will be stringent rules and legislation restricting Christians and the exercise of the freedom of faith”. Reading between the line, it is clear that his fear was that BJP would moot legislation which most likely to stop conversion by allurement and fraud. In other words, the freedom of faith means for them the freedom to convert Indians.
In same report, All India Christian Council talks about Hindu radical mobs who went on the rampage in Kandhamal, Odisha, and Mangalore, Karnataka, in 2007 and 2008 killing over 120 Christians and Dalits. Christians and Dalits? One would like to ask them, how many FIRS, cases filed in this regard? But they won’t entertain such queries which are not relevant for them.
ICC’s regional manager William Stark crossed all limits of shamelessness by declaring that Indian Christians were already experiencing restrictions on the free exercise of their faith. Yet again no description, detailing provided to narrate what sort of restrictions Christians have while worshipping their religion!
Countercurrents is website famous for virulent attacks against Hinduism and Hindu groups, its fixed position is that Hindu groups are naturally terror groups and whatever related to Christians and Muslims in India is tolerant and secular. Within just week of 2014 election results it published Shehzad Poonawala’s report, ‘Indian Christians Under A Narendra Modi Led Government’. While listing of names of RSS affiliated organizations, Poonawala went of narrating what RSS second Chief once said about Muslims, Christians and Communists in India. Then he went on enlightening readers about V D Savarkar’s thoughts on minorities.
With reference to Graham Stains murder in Odisha, the author predicted about possible line of thinking of Modi government regarding minorities and said, ‘The world view of Indian Christians, who much like Indian Muslims, are perceived as “outsiders” or “foreigners” continues to be the guiding political narrative of the entire Sangh Parivar even today’ Then he blames Modi for not coming out publically to reject, condemn and disown so called line of thinking of RSS on minorities. Then he goes on narrating sporadic, minor and localised incidences like desecrating Christian crematorium by unidentified culprits in Gujarat and lack of concrete action against them from Modi as Chief Minister of the state.
Then there is long state wise list of ultra-minor incidences, many of which are not distantly related to religious identity of victims, but quoted in article as atrocities on Christians under BJP rule.
There is funny conclusion and observation from author, ‘It’s clear that the RSS is pinning all its hopes on Modi and even unleashed its entire organizational and propaganda machinery to run his campaign. In return, the RSS expects that their long, unfulfilled agendas would see fruition under a Modi-led government’, the agenda which he wants to finger at is cleansing of minorities in India, which he referred obliquely. As per author, the whole exercise is focused at abolishing current secular constitution to create Hindu Rashtra!
Finally Poonawala issued warning to Christians, ‘Those who think only Muslims ought to be cautious about Mr.Modi, think again! Evidence suggests that Christians too will have to brace themselves up for a rather challenging period as Modi’s “majority government” exhibits “majoritarian symptoms”.
The portal introduces Poonawala as 1st generation, self-made, 26 year old, lawyer-activist engaged in politics and civil rights movement. He is the youngest Additional Private Secretary to Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Govt of India.
Hats off to such enlightened soul in Government of India!
Manipulated Perception: All news and articles published on Christian media and statements of Indian Christian leaders after 2014 election results had one thing in common and that was repeated forecasting of attacks on Christians under Modi Rule. To prove their point, they reminded Indians of concocted, fabricated stories of attacks on Christians in India’s remote places, majority of which had no connection; direct or indirect with any Hindu organization.
Then they continued allegation that BJP- RSS going to scrap Secular Indian Constitution only to replace it with Hindu Rashtra!
The perception manipulation exercise was successful to a great extent.
In May 2016, BJP won Assam assembly elections, and formed it’s maiden government in biggest North East Indian state of Assam. Earlier there were BJP governments in other smaller states in NE India and BJP was twice minor coalition partner in Assam with regional party AGP. The sole BJP government was itself historical thing in North East India where Muslims are about 30% in Assam and stands second after Kashmir in terms of Muslim population. Also other NE states have dominant Christian population.
As we have seen in earlier instances where Christians used deceptive rhetoric and manufactured narratives to paint BJP and RSS in black colours regarding religious minorities. They repeated same tact to forcefully inculcate anti-minority image of BJP and RSS on people of Assam and North East Indian people.
This time Archbishop John Moolachira of Archdiocese of Guwahati issued statement cautiously welcoming new BJP government in Assam. In a statement he said, ‘BJP which is often accused of being biased against religious minorities wins Assam state for the first time. And we expect a good relationship with the new government; praying and hoping that there will not be any anti-Christian violence in the state under BJP rule’
Once again, Christians, especially Catholics twisted the facts to forcefully convince Indian masses that, Christians are not safe in India under BJP rule. This is seemingly an attempt to demonize Hindu groups and to push them to walls!
Manipulated Perception: Whole of north-eastern India is predominantly Christian except Assam, Tripura and Manipur. In such a case, is it really possible for anyone to unleash terror and violence against Christians in the region? However committed to spread lies and fictions with ulterior motives, the Catholic machinery carried out their propaganda with professional urgency and precision!
Year 2017 started with shocking news for BJP- RSS opponents, when BJP secured huge majority in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically extremely significant state for BJP. In other states where elections were held simultaneously, BJP stunned many, when it installed its governments in Goa and NE Indian state of Manipur, even after finishing second!
The Christian portal World Watch Monitor published report on BJP’s stunning performance, ‘Uncertain future for Indian Christians after BJP’s election victories’.
The report declared, ‘For minority groups BJP’s victory is not necessarily good news. In the run up to the elections there were reports of an increase in violence, especially against Christians’. To prove its point, it quotes an Indian Christian Persecution Report from Mumbai based unknown Christian group, Catholic Secular Forum. As per this report, some 12,000 Christians experienced religious persecution in 2016 including murder, detention, assault, rape and harassment. The report conveniently and deliberately avoided mentioning in detail, the ordeal faced by unlucky 12,000 Christians! To prove their allegations, just statement was enough; the logic was that, Christians never lie, so you must believe them!
It further says; Christians expect that the election results will surely embolden the BJP to even more vigorously pursue its Hindu nationalist agenda, increasing the pressure on minority groups. With a stronger representation in the upper house, the BJP-led government could be in position to introduce laws to enact an “anti-conversion law” (already proposed) at the national level. So the real pain is possible anti-conversion law, which strikes Christians and legally thwart Christians from converting Indian masses.
In the same piece, the Catholic Secular Forum secretary Joseph Dias stated that since the BJP came to power in 2014 elections, Hindu groups have ramped up their campaign to create a Hindu-only India i.e. Hindu Rashtra, which has resulted in increasing incidents of violence against Christians. “The concern is not about the BJP’s political gain but its silence. The BJP government has been silent on various fringe elements and right-wing forces acting against Christians.” Once again, their duty is over once they declare that “Attacks against Christians have increased in recent past under BJP rule”. No Indian would dare to ask them how, where and who attacked Christians? Because Christians enjoy media immunity in India and media won’t ask them awkward questions!
Then the highest drama in the series occurred when Catholics met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The media covered the news widely. “Catholic priests meet Yogi, requested freedom to worship without fear”. The press note issued by Fr Gerald John Mathias said, ‘We requested the chief minister to ensure the safety and security of our places of worship, and the freedom to worship without fear’.
The Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Lucknow Fr Gerald John Mathias said, “We requested the chief minister to ensure the safety and security of our places of worship, and the freedom to worship without fear,”
The whole PR drama was to pressurise Yogi Adityanath and to hold him accountable for everything that might happen in future in his state related to Christians. The fact which Catholic leaders didn’t mention was the reasons behind attacks against pastor in Gorakhpur. The said attack was the fallout of foul, insulting and objectionable language used by missionaries against Hindu deities. This is the reason behind majority of the conflicts in India involving Christians. As Christians they always condemn Hindus as idolaters and deities in all forms.
Manipulated Perception: Yogi Adityanath is known for his unambiguous stands on religious issues. Though media and minority groups painted him as radical, anti- minority and violent Hindu leader, his track record in Lok Sabha when he was MP for 6 terms speaks about his persona. Here is his track record for selected period.
Times of India published this data in Nalin Mehta’s article after anointing Yogi as UP Chief Minister- 5 times MP Yogi Adityanath participated in 55 debates since mid-2014, asked 284 questions, only eight of these debates (14.5%), two questions (0.7%) were related to Hindutva-related causes, majority ranging from inclusion of Bhojpuri in the Constitution’s Eighth Schedule to encephalitis.
Catholic tirade against RSS maiden route march in Shillong– On January 23, 2016 RSS arranged first ever route march in full uniform at Meghalaya capital Shillong to commemorate birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The participants were tribal youth from Khasi and Jaintia tribes of state, which infuriated the Christians. Meghalaya has about 80% Christian population. The Christians hold a tight grip on government and society. Given their hold on social life, it was natural that they became aggrieved after RSS route march.
But such facts and figures are deliberately ignored by Christians to support their narrative and to defend their manipulations. Though RSS is active in the state since many decades, such show of power on capital streets has affected the Christianity leadership.
On January 29, 2016 Catholic leader Fr Albert Thyrniang authored article in local newspaper with title, ‘Shillong RSS Linked To Nazism And Fascism!’. The article was full of lies and baseless allegations. Surprisingly, local tribal youth took to social media and furiously retaliated against the article, which further shocked the Church. The newspaper was taken by surprise as it never expected backlash from local people in favour of RSS. The newspaper came under heavy fire and was forced to publish the RSS point of view.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
The author is the Director of ICRR- Institute for Conflict Research and Resolution; Defense and Security think tank based in Guwahati.