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India’s Bharatiya Janata Party, after defeat at polls, renews push for Hindu nationalism

KOCHI, India (BP)–India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), desperately seeking its way back to power in the Asian giant, is reverting to its anti-minority political platform known as “Hindutva” or Hindu nationalism, according to a Nov. 30 report by Compass Direct.

If the platform is implemented, Christians and Muslims could face a backlash of Hindu extremism.

Compass Direct, a news service which focuses on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith, reported that the BJP re-elected L.K. Advani to party leadership during a three-day national executive meeting in late November in Haridwar. Advani was once subpoenaed by a court for his involvement in the demolition of a mosque.

In a hard-hitting speech, Advani declared his party’s commitment to constructing a “Hindu India” and called the party “a chosen instrument of the divine.”

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Advani’s colleague and former Indian premier, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, endorsed the aggressive Hindutva platform.

Concern about the beating it took in this year’s state assembly elections in Maharashtra and elsewhere was evident throughout the BJP meeting. However, “even if we fail here or there, we will always bounce back,” Vajpayee said.

Observers say the BJP plans to encourage more anti-Christian and anti-Muslim sentiment across the nation of 1 billion people in order to bolster its electoral standing in polls and maintain a footing in India’s federal administration.

“Let every adversary of ours be warned,” Advani said. “If anybody tries to take the cover of secularism to indulge in anti-Hindu politics and statecraft, the BJP will stand in their path like a rock, prepared to make any sacrifice.”

At a recent national executive meeting in northern India, the BJP chief assured leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological movement that spawned the BJP, that the party will return to its core Hindutva values to shape policy decisions.

By committing to the political agenda of a “Hindu India,” the BJP likely will launch aggressive campaigns against Christian and Muslim communities, which the BJP sees as supportive of their political rivals. Christian and other minority leaders fear a new backlash along the lines of the ideological mass mobilization that preceded the destruction of Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya in 1992.

Advani has called the conversion of tribal Hindus to Christianity and Buddhism “fraudulent.”

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“Why is raising one’s voice against such fraudulent conversions of poor tribals and other indigenous people considered a communal act in this country?” he asked.

“The time has come to proclaim, and proclaim with all the courage of our conviction, that India is secular principally because of its Hindu ethos. Remove this Hindu ethos, and there will be no India left.”

India’s constitution declares that India is a secular state, clearly providing the freedom to propagate any religion or social cause.

Senior party functionaries believe the BJP’s electoral base is eroding due to the alienation of party workers and the mismanagement of BJP-ruled states, Compass Direct reported, noting that the BJP and its affiliated organizations have given the “green light” for its cadres to work against Christian groups which they fear are converting Hindus.

As part of a “homecoming” program, more than 300 tribal Christians were “reconverted” to Hinduism in October in a mass ceremony organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, or World Hindu Council) in the northeastern state of Orissa.

“It was the largest purification program carried out by us,” said Gauri Prasad Rath, state secretary of the VHP. “Three hundred and thirty-six people from 80 families who had been lured to become Christians were brought back to Hinduism.”

Indian Christian leaders expressed shock and dismay over the incident. “This is nothing but a vicious and hostile hate campaign launched by the VHP,” said John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council, the largest Christian body in India. “We have told the state government several times about this hate campaign.”

According to Christian leaders, the militant VHP plans to triple its presence within two years in India’s highly sensitive tribal belt which spans Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. The BJP governs these states and also forms part of a coalition government in the state of Orissa.

“The main project of the VHP is to work in tandem with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which is notorious for turning tribals against Christians and Muslims and attacking Christian institutions and personnel,” Dayal said.

Hindu orators have unleashed a series of sermons against Christian thought and Christian mission work in rural areas. According to Compass Direct, illiterate villagers have been misled by lies and half-truths spread through indigenous-language tracts. Christian leaders now fear that this renewed hate campaign — with the blessing of Advani’s BJP — could lead to more conflict.

Advani and leaders like him are also unnerved because the new Congress Party-led federal government is rewriting history texts for schools. A panel of historians discovered that the books were altered during BJP rule to include misinformation on other faiths.
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Joshua Newton is a journalist in India. Copyright 2004 Compass Direct, a news service based in Santa Ana, Calif., focusing on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.

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