CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Indian government admits rise in religious hate crimes

NEW DEHLI (UCAN): India’s pro-Hindu government presented detailed data in parliament showing a surge in religion-based violence since it came to power four years ago. The statistics, revealed on February 6, confirm a long-standing allegation by rights groups that the situation is worsening.
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the coalition government, has been accused by rights groups and civil society of fanning the flames of intolerance.
In 2017, 111 persons were killed and at least 2,384 injured in 822 cases of sectarian violence, the highest figure in the past three years. 
 
In 2016, 86 persons were killed and 2,321 injured in 703 incidents of religion-based violence. 
 
Parliament was told that the highest number of incidents of sectarian violence was reported in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP swept to power in last year’s provincial elections. There were 195 incidents of religion-based violence in 2017, claiming 44 lives and injuring 452 people.
 
Critics also allege that the administration is supportive of violence by extremist groups against religious minorities like Muslims and Christians in its desire to make India a Hindu-only state.
 
A report by the Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, points to the active promotion of Hindu nationalism by some BJP leaders as resulting in the spike in communal violence in India since it came to power in 2014.
 
The report says that the failure by authorities to investigate or prevent such attacks—often led by extremist groups acting as vigilantes for cow protection and moral policing—has “created a climate of impunity” and might lead to continued attacks.
 
A BJP parliamentarian, Vinay Katiyar, told reporters in New Delhi on February 7 that Muslims have no business being in India and should go to Pakistan or Bangladesh. He also blamed them for partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
 
Murali Krishnan, a veteran Indian journalist, noted, “Over the past three years, the space for liberal discussion in the country has become narrower. This has been shown by repeated incidents of threats, assassinations and lynching, along with the banning and burning of books.” 
 
Colin Gonsalves, a Supreme Court lawyer and founder-director of the Human Rights Law Network, said sectarian incidents, even if they happened in far-flung villages, were part of a national conspiracy and damaged the basic tenets of the constitution.
 
“Sectarian violence, like terrorism, should not be seen only as a law and order problem. Hate speech, like a terror incident, may happen in a village but the conspiracy has to be uncovered nationally,” he said. Hindus make up 80 per cent of India’s population or some 966 million. The 172 million Muslims and 28 million Christians are the two main religious minorities, followed by Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains. 

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