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It makes no mention of how the BJP regime has attracted criticism for ignoring regular assaults on minorities and on critics of its policies, which has generating unprecedented intolerance and insecurity over the last five years, according to observers.
Besides physical and verbal assaults, the Christian community was aggrieved over several policy steps that reinforced the government’s pro-Hindu agenda, including blatant bids to turn Christmas and Good Friday (public holidays) into “working days.” The pastoral letter remains extremely cautious about such matters, citing “several areas of concerns,” including social and economic issues, and lamenting that “God is being slowly pushed to the periphery,” but without mentioning directly how religious minorities are being marginalized.
‘Growing Polarization’ The All India Catholic Union, a national lay forum approved by the CBCI, has been more vocal than the CBCI’s pastoral letter in decrying the Hindu nationalist regime’s religious biases.
The AICU convention, held March 24 at Varanasi in the BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India, deplored the “growing polarization” there ahead of the election against Christians and Muslim minorities in the state, which is India’s most populous with more than 240 million residents.
True nationalism can lead our motherland to genuine peace, harmony, progress and prosperity,” their closing-day press statement said.“In a climate of violence,” the bishops appealed in their statement “to all fellow citizens to shun mob culture and vigilantism in favour of peace”.“An assault on human life can never be inspired by God nor justified because of the diverse beliefs and practices,” the bishops continued.
“Human life of every individual person in our beloved motherland needs to be valued and defended.”While addressing a news conference on the final day, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, who was elected CBCI president at the conference, said “intolerance is causing a certain amount of anxiety to us”.
A month earlier, the Modi government — which swept into office on the campaign slogan (“good days are coming”) and its promise of creating 20 million additional jobs each year — was embarrassed when the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reported the unemployment rate stood at a 45-year-high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
The unemployment rate was higher in urban areas, at 7.8%, compared to 5.3% in rural areas of the country.
The pastoral letter that Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), issued in mid-March for the election contains no mention of the widespread criticism of actions and rhetoric undertaken against religious minorities during the five-year tenure of the BJP regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.More than 40 cases had taken place in Jaunpur [district] alone.In the first months of 2019, the region recorded 15 more cases.” Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in the southern state of Kerala — India’s most significant Christian region — released a statement March 26 urging voters to cast their franchise to uphold “secularism” — an indirect criticism of the Hindu nationalism espoused by the BJP.Blame for the rise in violence was levelled at Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a 2017 report co-written by the Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, and the UK-based Minority Rights Group.The report said: “In recent years there has been rising hostility against India’s religious minorities, particularly since the current right-wing BJP government, promoting Hindu nationalism, took power at the national level after its election in May 2014.”Meeting for their biennial assembly in Bangalore, the CBCI cautioned that attempts to impose Hindu nationalism could imperil the cultural and religious diversity of India.“Any attempt to promote nationalism based on any one particular culture or religion is a dangerous position.
His remarks echoed concerns raised in many quarters after the BJP government revealed that hate crimes and attacks on religious minorities had been on the rise since the BJP won the 2014 election.“Diversity is one of the strengths of India.