They first came for the Communists, and I didn’t say anything –
Because I was not a communist.
Then they came looking for the Socialists, and I didn’t say anything –
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came looking for the trade unionists, and I didn’t say anything –
Because I was not a trade unionist.
So they came looking for the Jews, and I didn’t say anything –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came to get me –
And there was no one left to defend me.
– Martin NiemÃ¶ller,
German theologian (1892-1984)
Saturday, December 25, it was Christmas. Before the end of the celebrations – in some places well before midnight – all the evils that Christ preached against have made their appearance. While the year ended on a sour note, the New Year began on a disturbing note. The past two weeks have been a challenge for Christians and liberals.
The year 2021 saw the death of Father Stan Swamy, a Christian missionary from Tamil Nadu who has spent his entire life among the tribes of Jharkhand. He was accused (wrongly, in my opinion) of terrorist activity, treated inhumanly in prison, refused on bail even on medical grounds, not tried and allowed to die. The year ended with the refusal of the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Mother Teresa) to receive foreign contributions for their charitable work on an alleged minor accounting violation.
What happened on Christmas Day was unforgivable, even though Christians are willing to forgive troublemakers “because they don’t know what they’re doing.” Just consider recent events:
-In Ambala, Haryana, there is the Church of the Holy Redeemer, built in the 1840s. Around midnight, after the church closed, two people entered and knocked over the statue of Jesus Christ and burned the buildings. figures of Santa Claus. Two days earlier, a group had entered a church in Pataudi, Gurugram, Haryana, and disrupted the prayers with slogans like “Jai Shri Ram”.
-In Agra, Uttar Pradesh, several Santa Claus figures were set on fire in front of missionary colleges. The Bajrang Dal activist justified the vandalism and said, “They lure our children by asking Santa Claus to bring them gifts and lure them to Christianity.” He failed to say that missionary colleges had also selflessly taught thousands of “our children” for several decades.
-In Cachar neighborhood, Assam, two people dressed in saffron broke into a Presbyterian church on Christmas night and demanded that all Hindus leave the area. At other Christmas masses, activists shouted slogans like âDeath to the missionariesâ.
Fringe becomes Mainstream
During the year 2021, several states, notably Karnataka, adopted or drafted anti-conversion bills aimed at Christians. There is little evidence that people of other faiths, especially Hindus, convert to Christianity. It is clear that Christians are the target of the far right which is abundantly present in the RSS, BJP and other organizations affiliated with the RSS. They are no longer marginal elements; they have become the mainstream and are represented even in the council of ministers of the central government.
Muslims – and now Christians – are the targets of what is called “hate speech”. Hate speech is part of the spread of hatred against non-Hindus. Six months ago an app called âSulli Dealsâ popped up in Delhi and a few days ago another app called âBulli Baiâ popped up in Mumbai. The apps put the faces of Muslim women up for auction online. The Twitter pseudonym that promoted ‘Bulli Bai’ used Sikh-sounding names like ‘Khalsa Supremacist’, ‘Jatinder Singh Bhullar’ and ‘Harpal’, possibly predicting who will be the next target of hate dealers – the Sikhs.
Muslims, Christians and Sikhs are as much Indians as they are Hindus. They have the right to practice their religion and, if you have read article 25 of the Constitution, the right to propagate their religion. The far right contests their right to practice their religion. It is unconstitutional.
Mr. Modi’s agenda
A sample of what is in store has been revealed in Haridwar. Excerpts from the speeches:
âIf you want to finish them off, then kill themâ¦ We need 100 soldiers who can kill 20 lakh (ie Muslims) to earn thisâ and âPrepare to kill or to be killed, there is no other optionâ¦ Every Hindu, including the police, the army, the politicians should start the cleansing as happened in Myanmar â. It is more than hate speech, it is a call for genocide.
These are not crazy ramblings, there is a method in madness. Mr. Hilal Ahmed, in an opinion piece (The Indian Express, January 6, 2021) explained why and how Mr. Modi has redefined the BJP agenda. According to Ahmed, the Covid disaster, the farmers’ movement and the growing economic crisis have forced Modi to “consolidate his position as the ultimate leader within the bosom of the Hindutva”. Development and Hindutva must no longer be separated and, to this end, the far right has made non-Hindu religions (and their believers) enemies of development, in addition to Hindutva.
The Christmas disruption, hate speech and malicious apps did not elicit a word of condemnation from the Prime Minister. Prepare for the future, bigotry will be untied. And speak, or there will be no one left to speak for you.