Peace and Violence – the minority Christian experience in India

“The Church has not been able to
successfully articulate the development
needs of the Christian community.” – John Dayal

How do minorities get justice? Judging from the study of minority rights (or thelack of them) in contemporary India in chapter 5 of Carnival Kingdom, the answer seems to be–with great difficulty! In this chapter, Dr John Dayal details the way that justice for minorities, originally skilfully written into the Indian constitution, has become increasingly problematic.

Here are 3 excerpts from his writing:-

“The Asian Centre for Human Rights called it ‘India’s Christianophobia’. ‘That secular India suffers from entrenched Christianophobia is well established but not publicly acknowledged by the State and the society at large. Nothing reflects it more than the denial of reservations to the Dalits who converted into “Christianity” solely because of their religion’, ACHR director Suhas Chakma said in a special report in January 2012. ‘Dalits’ is what the former untouchable Indian castes now call themselves in a militant rejection of the system crafted three centuries ago, and codified by Manu, the Hindu law giver.”

“The impact of a fast globalised economy on the lives of Tribals living in poverty in a land flush with mineral wealth, and an acceleration of large migrations to the six megalapolises of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai, collectively become a short fuse to the powder keg of this nation of 1.2 billion people on the cusp of the second decade of the twenty-first century who see, but do not share in, the oil, land, and digital booms. The emergence of a powerful Maoist movement in a third of the Union’s 35 States and central territories is the violent response to exploitation of resources by multinationals and the mass displacement of people by government acquisition of their homelands.” 

“The established Church [in India] finds itself cornered, partly because of its need to protect the large number of educational and medical institutions it runs, which can be put under pressure either by the majority community or by the state apparatus, as Bishops have found in the past sixty years. This also is the reason why the Church has not been able to successfully articulate the development needs of the Christian community, and explains the many ways its progress has been hindered in the past years. In fact, there is no collective statement made by the Church impressing on the government the need to focus attention on the economic development of a micro-minority which has given to the nation so much in the important fields of education and medicare. The Church has had no success in articulating the crisis in tribal areas where the implementation of the Forest Act in an arbitrary manner and several other administrative actions, have led to large scale deprivation, alienation of land, and mass migrations.” 

Dr John Dayal is one of India’s foremost voices on human rights, and particularly the situation of religious minorities, having been a writer and activist for the past four decades. He is a member of several governmental bodies, including the National Integration Council, and holds senior roles in numerous non-governmental organisations and networks, including as co-founder and Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, and a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He has had a long and distinguished career in the media and in academia. He has authored and contributed to several books, and regularly writes articles on human rights issues in India. He has a long record of investigating and producing substantive and influential documentation on communal violence in India, including Hindu-Muslim rioting and violence against Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. He is one of India’s leading experts on the situation in Orissa state, following the communal violence in 2008.

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