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Bishop’s fear of “a government that has become a nightmare to the poor and the minorities”

Posted on: April 10, 2018 10:14 AM
Bishop Thomas K Oommen, Moderator of the Church of South India, has accused the Indian government of adopting an extreme form of Hindu nationalism.
Photo Credit: CSI

The Moderator of the united Church of South India, Bishop Thomas K Oommen, has accused the Indian government of being “a danger to the very fabric” of the country. In an open letter, Bishop Thomas accuses the government of adopting “Hindutva supremacist ideology” – an extreme form of Hindu nationalism; in a country whose constitution “declares liberty, equality, and fraternity as its ideals; assures social, economic and political justice to the citizens of India; offers liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship; provides equality of status and opportunity to all the people; and strives to promote fraternity among all the citizens.”

The Moderator began his letter by saying that the CSI, whose churches have 4.5 million members, pray every week for “the President of the Indian Republic, the Prime Minister, the Governor of our State, the Chief Minister and all those who serve in the Government that we and all people may be governed with justice and honour.”

He said: “This shows how deeply this Church longs for a nation that is ruled in justice and peace. However, over the past few years, especially during the last four years, we are extremely alarmed at the way our nation is being ruled by Government at the Centre. As a citizen of India and as the head of an Indian Church, which belongs to a minority religion, with the majority of its members belonging to the minority communities, I hereby share the fear my people have under the rule of a Government that has become a nightmare to the poor and the minorities in India.”

India’s “founding parents” had created “a pluralistic nation” who saw the state’s roles as being “to protect and preserve the rights of all faiths, especially those of the religious minorities,” he said. “But today, for the central government there is a fundamentally different agenda that is in line with their notion of nation – Hindu rashtra.

“Towards the fulfilment of this agenda, the government is in the process of changing the school textbooks, inserting dogmatic and pseudo-scientific religious content, banning films, books, festivals of minorities etc, which they claim to ‘offend’ the Hindu nationalist sentiments. The demolishing of churches and mosques, vandalising of statues and persecution of people belonging to Christianity and Islam show the true face of BJP [the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi] that subscribe to the Hindutva Ideology.

“While I consider Hindus as my own sisters and brothers, I believe Hindutva which is totally against the values of Hinduism is a danger to the age old religious fraternity that this nation upholds. The communalist and fascist ideology of Hindutva promoted by the ruling BJP, cast a shadow over the constitutional secularism, and the religious minorities live under threat.

“The Church of South India demands that the Government at the centre ensures the democratic and secular fabric of India to be safeguarded.”

In his letter, he says that “activists, intellectuals and many others who voice against the corporate-fascist ideology are being silenced and even murdered”, and adds: “But I believe as a citizen of India and as a disciple of Christ, it is my role too to warn my fellow citizens against the fatal danger posed by the Hindutva forces in nexus with the corporate.”

He finishes his letter with reference to the Salt March in April 1930, at the end of which, “Mahatma Gandhi raised a lump of mud and salt and declared, ‘With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire’. Today . . . I urge you to unite, irrespective of your religion, caste, class, creed, colour, language and gender, and shake the foundations of this new empire being built by the corporate-fascists, so that our nation remains a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.”