The pro-Hindu organization, Janajati Dharma Sanskriti Suraksha Manch (JSM), has announced plans to hold a rally against Christians on Christmas Day in the city of Agartala. A demonstration that seeks to put pressure on the government to demand the removal of social benefits, recently granted to tribes converting to Christianity or Islam.
Janajati Dharma Sanskriti Suraksha Manch (JSM), an Indian organization whose name means forum to protect the religion and culture of tribal people, sparked controversy by announcing a rally on December 25 in Agartala, capital of the state of Tripura , in northeastern India. An anti-Christian rally.
Affiliated with the pro-Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party, the organization calls for the abolition of social benefits for tribes who convert to Christianity or Islam, arguing that "these religions are of foreign origin".
According to information reported by The Christian Post, the JSM argues that converts no longer respect traditional customs, arguing for their exclusion from the ST category, which would deprive them of crucial benefits such as access to education and employment quotas.
Santi Bikash Chakma, head of the Tripura unit of the JSM, clarified in a press conference that the objective of this rally is to amend the constitutional provisions to exclude these individuals.
“We will hold a massive rally on December 25, demanding removal of ST status converts by amending the constitutional provisions.”
He clarified that the organization “does not oppose any religion but advocates for the preservation of indigenous cultures.”
An announcement which sparked strong reactions, particularly in the country's Christian community. Father Ivan D'Silva of Agartala Diocese told UCA News that a "meeting of all religious denominations in the state would be organized to strongly oppose this event", calling this initiative "a deliberate attack on the most sacred holiday of Christians".
"It looks like this was done deliberately. We called a meeting of all religious denominations in the state and decided to oppose the gathering."
In India, 11 states have passed anti-conversion laws, creating an atmosphere of intolerance towards Christianity. This social intolerance sometimes leads the police to turn a blind eye to attacks targeting Christians, under the pretext of attempts at conversion or apostasy from Hinduism.
Christians, who make up 4,35% of Tripura's 3,7 million population, are mainly from indigenous tribal communities. Christians in India face discrimination and persecution, particularly in areas with anti-conversion laws.
On April 9, 2021, the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by a lawyer affiliated with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), aimed at establishing a national law regulating religious conversions, a proposal deemed unconstitutional. According to information from Portes Ouvertes, many Christians now fear the imminent adoption of a repressive law against changing religion.
The ruling BJP and the rise of persecution
According to the NGO Portes Ouvertes, persecution against Christians has increased considerably since the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of the pro-Hindu BJP party, to power in 2014.
The 2018 report of the Religious Freedom Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India has confirmed an “escalation of persecution” against Christians in the country since his election.
Statistics reveal, in fact, a notable increase in violent incidents, acts of intimidation and harassment against Christians. John Pudaite, vice president of international ministries at Bibles for the World, said the situation is not favorable for them.
Although India claims to be a secular state, many radical Hindu activists want to see Hinduism become the national religion. India is ranked 11th in theGlobal Persecution Index 2023 from the NGO Portes Ouvertes.
Salma El Monser
Image credit: Shutterstock/Nomad1988
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