Time to revisit the spirit of “Indianness”- December 2020

January 8, 2021

There were 28 incidents of violence against Christians reported in December 2020 with most number of incidents reported from the state of Uttar Pradesh where 11 incidents were reported, followed by 5 incidents in Chhattisgarh and 4 incidents each in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. The nature of incidents ranged from severe physical assault to social ostracism.

One might wonder in times as these if it’s time to revisit the spirit of “Indianness” as portrayed in the Indian poems, works of art and literature, for instance, one of India’s favourite poem-song, titled “sare jahan se achcha, Hindustan hamara”. One of the verses in this patriotic song speaks of a core value of Hindustan, namely:

“Mazhab nahi sikhata, aapas mein bair rakhna, hindi hain hum, watan hain, Hindustan hamara”

Translated to mean “Religion does not teach us to hate each other, we are Hindustanis, and Hindustan is our homeland”.

A growing trend of violence and hostility by one community against another has become the most common headline in every newspaper in India in recent times. The various databases that store information on religious persecutions and violence based on religion also convey this unfortunate but very real fact.

A case in point is an incident that took place in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh on 31st December, 2020. A pastor took permission to hold a prayer service at one of his congregants’ house situated at Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. When the pastor was on his way to the congregant’s house, a mob of 50 religious extremists barged into the person’s house where some congregants had already gathered for prayers. The mob physically assaulted those who were gathered there. As a result, one of the women who was pregnant suffered a miscarriage. The assailants also misbehaved with other ladies of the congregation and accused all of them of converting villagers to Christianity by giving them money as an allurement to convert. When the Christians went to the police station to file a police complaint regarding the incident, the police refused to register an FIR against the culprits alleging that they need to verify whether conversions by allurement are taking place or not.

Another incident that sends shivers down one’s spine took place on 25th December 2020 in the Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh. A mob of 8 to 10 religious extremists barged into a prayer service being held in a village in Jashpur, Chhattisgarh and threatened and verbally abused the pastor and his family members, snatched belongings of congregants and threatened to kill them all if they continued to believe in Christianity. They broke all the equipment in the church and confiscated the Bibles. They also hurt the sentiments of the Christians in the church by attempting to tear the Bibles. Thereafter, they physically assaulted the pastor and his brother, threatened the women standing there and left the premises.

This is not just true for Christians living in India but also Dalits and Muslims who are facing similar persecution and violence at the hands of religious extremists who act without prudence. Such acts are on the rise with each passing day. In times like this and as we prepare to celebrate India’s 72nd Republic Day, it is time to revisit and hopefully revive the Indian spirit and values of this great Indian nation, preserved in its artistic, literary, musical and cultural heritage, which we all proudly call our homeland.