India is “not a country for Christians” and other non-Hindu faiths – “they have their own countries” – according to an editorial in the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP’s “press organ”, Saamana.
The editorial came on the back of remarks by Mohn Bhagwat, head of fellow Hindu nationalist group RSS, at a conference on 27 October. Bhagwat said “Hindustan [an alternative name for India, indicating its majority-Hindu populace] is a Hindu country, but that does not mean that it does not belong to others,” referring to members of other religions in India.
The Saamana editorial added: “There are more than 50 countries for Muslims. Christians have countries like America and Europe. Buddhists have China, Japan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Hindus have no country other than this.”
World Watch Monitor reported in August that Hindu extremists were behind 99 per cent of violent assaults on Christians, with figures showing as many attacks in the first half of 2017 as all of 2016.
But Alphons Kannanthanam, a member of the BJP and the first Indian Christian in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said earlier in October that Christians are “safe” under the BJP-led government.
“There has not been even one instance when a church was burnt or Christians attacked anywhere in the country after Modi came to power,” Kannanthanam said.
Kannanthanam was speaking ahead of the state election in Meghalaya, north-eastern India. Christians in the state are in a majority at 75 per cent, with Hindus making up about ten per cent.
The career civil servant is a native of the Kanjirapally diocese, in the state of Kerala, overseen by Catholic Bishop Matthew Arackal. On Kannanthanam’s appointment, Arackal said: “He can certainly be a good link between the [Modi] government and the Christian community.”