face of the Hindu Right has been revealing itself over recent weeks
(in India). In the bizarre and frightening world of the Hindu Right,
Christians and rapists are both under attack. And what exactly do these
two have in common. At one level, absolutely nothing. Christians are
a legitimate religious minority. Rapists are criminals, but, in the
hands of the Hindu Right, the issues like rape and religious minorities
- like everything else they touch - are slathered in nationalism, authoritarianism
community has found itself under increasing violent attack The most
violent expression has come in the wake of the recent incident of rape
of four Christian nuns in Madhya Pradesh by militants associated with
the Hindu Right. Then, there was the violent attack on Christian religious
leaders at a national conference in Baroda by mobs of the Hindu Right.
The mobs claimed, true to form, that they had rescued 47people (read
Hindus) from a foreign-inspired drive of conversion.
are not isolated events. There are more than 30 recorded instances against
Christians that have occurred over the past four months. For instance,
in July a mob entered a missionary school and burned hundreds of Bibles
after forcing students to spit on them. And there was the exhumation
of a coffin in Gujarat, the desecration of a statue at Jesus and Mary
College in New Delhi and the attacks on a convent in West Bengal.
community was reminded not only its minority status, accounting as it
does for only 2.6 per cent of the share of the population. It was also
reminded loud and clear, of its precarious place in a nation that increasingly
defines itself as Hindu. The Home Minister LK Advani has assured the
community that these incidents will be investigated. But, no formal
prosecutions have yet been started. This steady campaign and annihilation
is all too consistent with the BJP election manifesto calling for "one
nation, one people and one Culture.’
attacks on the Christian community may seem unprecedented - but only
in degree and visibility--in practice conversion has long been a favourite
target of the Hindu Right, leading to their demonisation of the likes
of Mother Teresa, and their many efforts to stop mass conversions of
Hindus to Christianity.
real focus of the Right wing’ s censure has more traditionally been
the Muslim minorities, who have long suffered at the hand of their anti-minority
rhetoric and violence. The current attack on Christians may be a strategy
intended to appease the more militant elements in the Sangh Parivar,
bent on propagating and establishing their doctrine of Hindutva. The
Muslims are experiencing a welcome though temporary reprieve, for any
attempt to violently attack and destroy their places of worship or disrupt
their community would lead to riots as witnessed at the time of the
destruction of the Masjid - something that the very precariously balanced
government can ill afford.
is the seemingly unrelated effort of dealing firmly with atrocities
against women. But getting tough with rapists Advani has declared the
Government’ s intention to institute the death penalty for rapists.
While attempting to project itself the upholder of women s rights, the
issue of rape has long been a highly communalised one.
Right has frequently highlighted the atrocities against women in Muslim
countries, in South Asia, the opposition to the call for Taslima Nasreen’
s death in Bangladesh being one recent example of this process. The
demonisation of the Muslim male has been intrinsic to the Hindu Right’s
agenda and this is ernphasised in the context of violence against YI
penalty for rape cannot be understood in isolation. It is unlikely to
lead to an increase in the conviction of rapists, since judges will
be loath to indict such severe sentences.
convictions are likely to be disproportionately at individuals from
disadvantaged and otherwise despised communities. Statistics in the
United States reveal that Black men make up a disproportionate number
of death row inmates. In the context of India, a review of laws that
are punishable with capital punishment brings out the discriminatory
way in which such laws are applied to disadvantaged communities. There
is every reason to fear that the death penalty will be disproportionately
used against Muslim men.
in turn, only serve to reinforce the stereotype of Muslim men as lustful
and rapacious, and deflect attention from the violence inflicted by
Hindu men against women.
there can be no compromise on the basic human rights standard. Regardless
of the nature of the crime. The death penalty has always operated against
disadvantaged communities in every place in the world where it has been
enforced. India is no exception to this rule. The death penalty is an
easy solution to a complicated problem, a way in which the state can
flex its muscles and fall back on- its prehistoric beliefs that might
is right, never reflect the rule of law.
us back to the attacks on the Christian community.
response in the rape of the nuns is couched in the language of nationalism
and seems to put the blame on Christian missionaries who have provoked
the ire of Hindus with their proselytising mission. There was no condemnation
or disagreement with the statements of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and
the Bajrang Dal, both members of the Sangh Parivar, of Hindus with their
proselytising mission. There was no condemnation or disagreement with
the statements of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, both
members of the Sangh Parivar, which virtually justified the attacks
on the Christian community and the missionaries. In fact B. L. Sharma,
General Secretary of the BJP, stated that "the assault on the mission
in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh and the violence and loot in Bhaghpat, Uttar
Pradesh, was the direct result of the conversion of the Hindus to Christianity
by the priests ".
seem then that the proposed new law for getting tough on atrocities
against women is not designed for communal rapes committed by Hindu
may be under attack, but apparently not at the expense of the attack
on the Christian community.
of religious minorities is in keeping with the BJP agenda to east Christians
and Muslims as foreigners who are posing a threat to the Hindu society
and the Hindu nation.
The Hindu, 29 November 1998)