The BJP is “fanning anti-Muslim feelings” among Christians in Kerala and using “threats and blandishments” to gain influence among the community in the state which constitutes 18 per cent of the population, alleged the CPI(M).
The editorial of the latest edition of the party mouthpiece People’s Democracy has claimed that the BJP has adopted a two-pronged approach to make a gateway into Kerala.
It has sought to fan anti-Muslim feelings amongst the Christian community and to intimidate and subdue anyone who does not fall in line with the BJP-RSS politics, it alleged.
The editorial claimed that this sudden turn of the BJP towards Christians has surprised many, but the “motivation was indicated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself”.
It also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a meeting at the BJP headquarters to celebrate the election results in three north-eastern states, had pointed out how the party had succeeded in Christian-dominated Meghalaya and Nagaland and claimed that it was a signal that the BJP had become acceptable to the Christian community.
Also read: Christians contributed hugely for nation, didn’t get respect: Union Minister John Barla
“The BJP has been striving, without much success, to establish itself in Kerala, a state where Muslims and Christians constitute 45 per cent of the population. Realising that it cannot make any headway among the Muslim population, the BJP has been trying to gain some influence among the Christians who constitute 18 per cent of the population,” it said.
The editorial also alleged that the BJP was using intimidation as a tool by initiating investigations against leaders of various churches in cases of money laundering.
Pressure was being mounted through the stringent Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by which the foreign funding received by churches for charitable and educational work is sought to be cut off, the editorial in the CPI(M)’s mouthpiece has claimed.
“After softening up leaders of various churches through such methods, blandishments are offered now apart from threats. Modi’s visit to the cathedral and the outreach of BJP leaders to Kerala church leaders must be seen in this context.
“The BJP hopes that this mailed fist in a soft glove approach will help them penetrate the Christian community. But this dubious charade in Kerala stands in glaring contrast to what is happening to Christians under BJP rule in the rest of India,” it said.
The editorial also claimed that ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, there has been a steady increase in the attacks on Christian places of worship and the community.
Also read:Kerala Christians’ beef with Muslims proof of BJP’s divide-and-rule policy
Quoting the United Christian Forum (UCF), the editorial said the survey showed attacks on Christians reached a peak in 2022.
There were 598 cases of violence against Christians in 21 states. Data from UCF showed a steady increase in acts of violence against Christians. In 2018, there were 292 incidents, in 2019 there were 328 cases and in 2020 there was a dip with 279 cases due to the Covid pandemic and lockdown, it said.
Such cases shot up in 2021 with 505 incidents. The last quarter of 2022 saw widespread attacks against Christian Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, the editorial claimed.
“Under the name of Janjati Suraksha Manch, which has been set up by various frontal organisations of the RSS, a vicious anti-Christian campaign has been conducted resulting in widespread attacks and violence in three districts of southern Chhattisgarh,” the CPI(M) alleged in the party mouthpiece.
Also read: UP, Karnataka lead cases of violence against Christians in India
It claimed that the attacks on Christian tribals in Chhattisgarh must also be seen in the context of the campaign being conducted by the RSS-led tribal organisations, “who are demanding that Christian Adivasis be delisted from the Scheduled Tribe reservation”.
“They claim that those who had converted to Christianity amongst tribals cannot be entitled to reservation. The implications of this demand are huge. For instance, many of the tribal communities in the north-east are Christians and this demand of the RSS would deprive them of their ST status,” it said.
The editorial also accused the BJP of using the draconian anti-conversion act — The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act —, which was adopted in September 2022 in Karnataka, which is next to Kerala, as a tool against church leaders.
“This law has draconian provisions by which churches and priests can be arrested on nebulous charges of forcible conversion based on complaints by persons even outside the family circle of a converted person. Various denominations of churches in the state have been unitedly protesting against this law and have now gone to court for redressal,” it said.
The editorial concluded that it would be a “mistake” to view these statements by certain church leaders as expressing the views of the church and the community as a whole.
“Christians in Kerala are very much part of the secular fabric, which has got deeply embedded in Kerala society. They are aware of the anti-Christian nature of the BJP-RSS and the lived experience of Christians all around the country. The Left movement and the Left Democratic Front in Kerala can be trusted to do everything necessary to counter this manoeuvre of the BJP and the Hindutva forces,” it said.