A group of 93 former civil servants on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak against the rise in hatred and incidents of violence against Christians in India.
The former bureaucrats alleged that Christians are being made to feel like strangers in their own country by some vocal extremists, who have been operating with impunity and sometimes with the approval of political or law enforcement authorities.
“Christians constitute but 2.3% of India’s population, and this percentage has remained more or less the same since the census of 1951,” the former civil servants said. “Yet, in the minds of some, this minuscule number poses a threat to the 80% of the population that is Hindu!”
Over the last few years, there have been several instances of Hindutva groups attacking churches and Christian prayer halls after accusing them of engaging in forced conversions.
On March 2, a group of men vandalised a book stall at Delhi’s World Book Fair as they allegedly objected to the distribution of copies of the Bible there. The stall was run by a Christian non-profit organisation named Gideon International.
On February 28, a pastor and his wife were arrested in Ghaziabad on complaints filed allegedly by members of the Hindutva group Bajrang Dal. They claimed that the pastor and his wife were converting residents to Christianity through persuasion and allurement.
A fact-finding report released in 2021 found that 305 attacks had taken place on the members of the Christian community across India between January and September of that year.
On February 20, members of the Christian community had also staged a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against the attack on churches. Members of about 100 churches and Christian organisations were part of the protest.
In Saturday’s letter, the former civil servants said that Christians are being accused of forcible conversions, followed by attacks that are verbal, physical, and psychological.
“It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves,” the former civil servants said in the letter issued under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group. “...One has to ask – if such large-scale conversions are happening, why has the percentage of Christians remained static over so many decades?”
The letter was signed by retired civil servants including former Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Indian Administrative Services officers Harsh Mander, Julio Ribeiro and Najeeb Jung, and others.
The signatories also noted that Christians contribute to multiple sectors particularly education, health and social reforms.
“During the pandemic, more than one thousand Christian-run hospitals readily offered for the treatment of patients,” they said. “Not a single Christian institution – whether education or health-related restricts its benefits to Christians alone.”
They added: “All violence can be stopped immediately with just a word from the top leaders of the BJP, the Union government and of each state government.”