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US media reports on alleged attacks on Indian Christians

November 19, 1998

Some dispatches and articles have appeared in the US media (e.g. Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) recently about alleged ill-treatment of Christians in India. These have tended to attribute communal motives to one or two criminal incidents and to conclude that India’s 23 million Christians are under some kind of threat. Far from abetting or condoning the incidents, the Government of India has taken prompt and effective action to investigate them and to bring the criminals to book. The Christian community in India continues to enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship and to practice its religion without any let or hindrance like other religious groups.

India is, as enshrined in its Constitution, a secular, democratic republic in which justice, liberty, equality and fraternity are assured to all its citizens irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. The Indian Constitution contains inviolable fundamental rights which include the Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, as well as Freedom for attendance at religious instructions or religious worship in certain educational institutions. The Constitution also provides for cultural and educational rights for the protection of the interests of the minorities. These fundamental rights are zealously guarded by an independent judiciary, free press and vigilant public opinion. In addition to the judiciary, several institutions such as the National Commission for Minorities and the National Human Rights Commission provide free and unfettered fora in which any violation of fundamental human rights receives wide attention and redressal.

The Christian community has one of its oldest homes in India since the time of Saint Thomas and has been a valuable and essential part of the modern Indian State. Christian luminaries have contributed in great measure to the development of India through their work in all fields of activity, particularly politics, education, public service, arts and culture.

As regards the deplorable incident of the rape of nuns in Madhya Pradesh, the Home Minister of India Mr. L.K. Advani was unsparing in his condemnation of the heinous crime and has called for strongest punishment to the perpetrators. He has publicly proposed that the law should be amended to provide for death sentence for the crime of rape.

Unfortunately, crimes cannot be eliminated from any society. At the same time, it would be incorrect to draw the conclusion that isolated incidents or statements are a signal that a society like India which has been known for centuries for its religious tolerance and has been a home to a large number of faiths can single out one community for attack. Such a presumption questions the entire ethos of the Indian civilization as well as the Constitutional guarantees and democratic processes which are an incontrovertible reality in modern India.