The USCIRF report on India is very ill- informed and worst of all, biased. Some of the allegations levelled against India to support its claim of deterioration in freedom of religion is-
1) Crackdown on Christian missionaries, NGOs.
2) Attacks on Christians, Muslims and Sikhs
3) Ghar wapasi (reverting to Hinduism)
4) Purported hate speech against religious minorities.
Before we begin the rebuttal itself, it is very important to understand the fundamental nature of Christianity and Islam. Both religions are, at their basis, violent ideologies based on ‘believe or burn’ motto of operation. Both Christianity and Islam have ZERO tolerance for any other religion and this is evident from the innumerable genocides they have committed upon indigenous people across continents for their expansion. In the present era, when violence became a less reasonable decision for the Christian church, they have resorted to the deceptive missionary tactics to evangelize the whole world. A dutiful reading of Christianity and Islam would make it obvious that these two religions are dogmatic in nature and have their bases in the inhumane, draconian mosaic laws of the Old Testament. All the good things they teach happen to be part of universal spirit of goodness which can be found in all religions and even among the irreligious. So, when Christian missionaries try to convert people of indigenous faiths to their fold, the duty to demonstrate how Christianity (or Islam for that matter) is a better faith is completely on the missionaries.
Unfortunately, one can never objectively demonstrate how one supernatural being is better than the other. So, there is no way one can prove Christianity is the one true faith over any indigenous belief. If anything, Christianity and Islam are both dangerous faiths that have stamped out pluralism of any kind, taken away homosexual rights, subjugated women. One might have to step out of first world countries and look at the face of real fundamentalist Christianity on display. On the other hand, Hinduism is a liberal polytheistic religion, which was considered by historians to be the forerunner of modern day western civilizations in terms of autonomy to the vulnerable groups of the present. When fundamentalist Hinduism was the dominant faith of the Indian subcontinent, the region prospered in terms of economy, science, philosophy. Fundamentalist Hinduism sheltered the Jews (who were persecuted in every other nation except Hindu India), Syrian Christians, Zoroastranians and many more communities which were denied the most fundamental human rights in their places of origin ( incidentally by either Christianity or Islam).
This write up in no way looks to justify any atrocity on modern day Christians and Muslims for the evil committed by their predecessors, but looks to drive home the idea that Christianity or Islam are in NO way superior or truer ideologies than any other religion, in fact, they are dangerous to any society, if the fundamentalists get to control the scheme of things. After all, fundamentalists are a threat to the society when the fundamentals themselves are a threat. One does not see Buddhist or Jain or Hindu monks killing people in the name of religion. So, when missionaries try to spread the Christian faith, they are actually trying to push across dangerous ideologies in the liberal, tolerant Hindu society (which even accorded atheism the status of school of thought, traditionally recognized homosexuality as natural and gave them protection from harassment, was the first of civilizations to adopt the idea of divinity in the feminine). As a responsible human-being, I believe that the government should do more to inhibit the expansion of dangerous ideas in the society, more so when those ideas do not have objective proof and are spread by vilifying the vast cultural heritage of the indigenous faiths.
The Christian missionaries and NGOs are also known to be involved in anti national activities such as instigating villagers against developmental projects of any kind and pushing across separatist tendencies. The Ford Foundation funded protests against Kudankulam Nuclear power project are perfect examples of how missionaries and NGOs operate to oppose development of India. This is supported from the fact that the only time India was partitioned in the past, was because of Islam. And the states with separatist tendencies at present are either Christian majority or Islamic majority. One can clearly see how the sovereignty of India is threatened with the unmonitored activities of missionaries and the state, therefore, is perfectly justified on cracking down on these fraudulent NGOs and anti national missionaries.
While attacks on religious minorities have occurred, resulting even in the loss of many precious lives, one has to remember that these are spontaneous reactions and in no way are indicative of institutionalized or pre-meditated violence on religious minorities. The report also (conveniently) ignores the cause of such violent reactions from the indigenous populations.
Attacks on Christians
The incident took place when a Hindu saint Lakshmanananda Saraswati, (on whose life, four attempts were made) was assassinated by Maoist terrorists (who have very close ties with the Christian church and the leaders of whom were spotted sharing the same private transportation with Church pastors). They were apparently miffed with the activities of Lakshmanananda, such as reconverting Christians to Hindus (which is not wrong, if one takes into consideration conversions were going unabated in those regions), emphasizing the value of vegetarianism and cow worship.
The report also conveniently brushes aside the existence of Christian terror groups such as ‘National Liberation Front of Tripura’, whose goal is to establish a separate state for God and Christ. The organization has murdered around 30 Hindus and has converted hundreds of Hindus at gun point and has banned the celebration of Hindu festivals in the many parts of Tripura. They are known to receive funding from lot of Christian NGOs which have been cracked down. The report’s complete miss of atrocities on Hindus leaves a lot to be questioned.
And the recent string of attacks on churches which made huge news in the international scene were either false flag operations carried out by church itself or by some disgruntled church employees, or by Muslims. The supposed burning down of a Delhi church was caused due to a short circuit of the electric circuit of a Christmas tree. The breaking of a window pane was caused by kids playing cricket. In another case, the church shut down the business of a few gamblers who then retaliated. Surprisingly, one of them happened to be a Christian. There was another case where a Muslim whose love got spurned down by a Christian girl attacked the church she was a member of. In all of these cases, the anti Hindu, anti India media and anti India church blamed the Hindu organizations and not in single ONE of them, were Hindus involved.
The church in India had mastered the art of groaning while striking a blow. The Church hit a nadir in its false accusations on Hindus when a 70 year old nun was gang raped. As usual, they happened to blame the Hindu organizations and were instrumental in perpetuating the image of India being unsafe for even elderly women. But investigations revealed that this gang rape was carried out by Bangladeshi immigrants (no rewards for guessing their religion). But no media house issued an apology or an international clarification on the issue. The report on religious freedom in India is clearly based on false accusations from the very same church officials and missionary –NGO nexus, which were shattered to pieces as investigations took over, and is ill informed about the recent developments. For more information on this, I have attached a few articles which were written after complete information was gathered and also, links to articles and interview by a patriotic Catholic Christian, who is truly grateful to the Hindus and India for its exemplary religious tolerance. .
Attack On Muslims
Like their report on Christians, this report also chose to ignore anti Hindu and anti India activities of Muslims. While the report mentions the 2002 riots of Gujarat as the most terrible atrocity on the minorities, it fails to probe deeper into the riot, 40% victims of which were Hindus. Also, the cause for the riots was totally ignored. Muslim goons set fire to the compartment of a train which was filled with mostly adolescents and women, who were returning from a temple construction activity. Sixty innocent passengers were charred to death. Clearly, the USCIRF does not see their lives deserving a mention at all. Another preposterous claim made in the report is the negative portrayal of Muslims in media. I can’t stress enough on how false that is. Media looks to shield Muslims at all times. The 2012 Delhi gang rape case’s main accused, the Juvenile is a Muslim, but the media shielded him totally, by giving him a Hindu alias. A significant portion of crimes against women are committed by men from Muslim families, and the media does its best separating them from their religion. In fact, a Shia-Sunni riot was made to look like a Hindu-Muslim riot by one of the national newspaper of tremendous repute.
As I write this rebuttal, a mob of 1500 Muslim goons have ravaged through Hindu settlements in the dhimmi state of west Bengal and barely one news channel has even reported the incident. Hindu faith is regularly mocked over the most innocuous aspects by movies, but any critique of Islam or Christianity draws censuring from media and so called secular intellectuals who happen to be custodians of liberalism in India. India has compromised freedom of speech to accommodate Islam and Christianity, while the missionaries and Islamic evangelists constantly go around vilifying the Hindu faith. Another claim of the Hindu nationalist government imposing ban on cow slaughter affecting Islamic rituals is a very shallow allegation.
Bovine animals have been the backbone of Indian civilization and to slaughter them is to slaughter the essence of the civilization. If I may ask, doesn’t the USA prohibit slaughter of dogs and cats? Would that not be hurting the sentiments of South East Asian diaspora of the USA ? The point I wish to drive home here is that every nation and culture’s majority population has certain sensibilities which are best when respected, at least when the sensibilities result in some good. The good in this case being bovine animals living their life fully. On the other hand, Islamic ritual of sacrifice is clearly antithetical to human notions of kindness to animals and can also be demonstrated to cause immense cruelty and sufferings to the animals. Any civilized government which is a forerunner of animal rights has no obligation to condone such bloodbath of innocent sentient beings.
Coming back to indiscriminate detaining of Muslims who are terror suspects, it is such an irony that this allegation comes from a nation that has enacted the PATRIOT act, which allows any resident of the US to be detained indefinitely, without access to an attorney in a location undisclosed to anybody. And regarding the doubts over the Muslim community, it is up to the community to improve their image, but they have constantly done the opposite. Would it surprise you to know that even the most educated of the Muslim community are sometimes caught conniving with the anti national elements? Also, Muslim gangs have carried out assassinations of several leaders and workers belonging to Hindu nationalist parties, hoping for an anti-Muslim riot which could further blemish the government. It is obvious the report chooses to turn a blind eye to such violent deeds perpetrated by minorities towards the majority.
Attacks On Sikhs
The 1984 pogroms on Sikhs were carried out by the workers of a political party, named Indian National Congress, after the assassination of the nations’ Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi (from the Congress Party) by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress party is no way concerned with the advancement of either India (considering the plethora of scams they committed over their 60+ years of wretched rule ) or Hinduism.
On the other hand the much accused RSS activists happened to protect the Sikhs from being killed in the pogroms. The RSS is constantly portrayed as a terrorist organization by pseudo liberal intellectuals of India, but the moment any natural disaster strikes, they are one of the FIRST ones to reach the site, volunteering for relief and rescue, offering selfless and fearless service to all needy, irrespective of their religion (something Christian missionaries can’t do).
Ghar Wapasi is Hinduism’s answer to evangelism. Personally, I am not in support of this move, but if this report finds nothing wrong with cultural genocide of indigenous faiths at the hands of Islam and Christianity (and in fact sees cultural genocide as a right of the evangelical faiths), it would be highly hypocritical to question the Ghar Wapasi movement. Let me put this in perspective, one group tries to expand its following from continent after continent, even though history has plenty of examples of how its spread has been dangerous to human goodness, and the other side looks to conserve what little is left of the last standing pagan religion, whose past glories are paralleled only by the richest and most developed western societies. So, who needs to stop here?
Purported Hate Speech By Hindu Nationalists
Hindu nationalists never resort to vilifying the fundamentals of any religion, for Hinduism teaches the noble doctrine that all religions are valid paths to the same truth. They call out on these anti national evangelists and NGOs and people who work against the nation. That is far better than having to hear how I worship false gods and that Jesus/Muhammad is the only true son/last messenger of one true god. That is a lot better than being told everyday how I would burn in hell for eternity to have chosen to worship a loving conception of god over a god who demands worship for redemption from hell.
With pastors and evangelists like Steven Anderson and Pat Robertson, who constantly foul mouth other religions and the most harmless gifts from Hinduism like yoga, as being demonic, a country like US should first castigate them before pointing fingers at a country like India, which has always done a better job in terms of religious freedom than any other nation in the past. The diatribes of Christian pastors can’t be dismissed as freedom of speech. If it were being dismissed that way, so should the diatribes of Hindu nationalists be dismissed. Else, it’s a crystal clear case of racism or assumed religious supremacy of Christianity to demean other faiths.
Lastly, India has had several men and women, from all backgrounds who have held the highest positions in the nation. But, can an atheist or a non Christian become the president of America ? I clearly see how each presidential candidate baits the Christian card to stay popular. But in India, even the so called Hindu nationalist parties are forced to invest a lot in building their image as being religiously tolerant. The current Government is arguably the best Government we have had since independence and this report is an attempt to malign the image of an up and coming nation by a committee which is ill informed, biased and is working with an agenda of pushing Christian and Islamic evangelism, as it is comprised of people who only see the Christian and Islamic viewpoints. The rebuttal to the report does not condone violence of any kind. But some reactions are spontaneous and to blame the government, and the tolerant nature of Hindus at large is unjustified, more so when the Hindus are persecuted in their last bastion. Ideologies like Christianity and Islam, which are dogmatic and violently monotheistic and look to conquer the whole world for ‘one true god’ will indeed breed more resentment from the indigenous populations. I honestly can’t think of a population which would tolerate the activities of missionaries and NGOs like India does and I am sure a nation like America would have sent Hindus and Indians packing ages ago if they behaved anything like the minorities in India do. Live and let live applies not just for living beings, but for ideas too.
Ananth is a student with keen interest in history and comparative religions.