Christmas is an occasion mostly associated with joy and celebration. But since the start of the holiday season, India’s minority religious groups of Christians and Muslims have been especially under pressure.
The Indian Parliament has hardly functioned since the start of December because several opposition lawmakers have been protesting a series of attacks against the nation’s religious minorities. The protagonists are Hindu nationalists emboldened by India’s largest political party Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member of the BJP. The party controls a majority in Parliament and expresses a commitment to Hindutva, an ideology that defines Indian culture in terms of Hindu values.
On the morning of Dec. 1, St Sebastian’s church at Dilshad Garden – a large Catholic church in a crowded middleclass area of Delhi – went up in flames. The interior of the church was destroyed before half a dozen firefighting trucks managed to extinguish the blaze.
Hours after the fire, a Minister for food processing industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who has been handpicked by Prime Minister Modi, stunned the nation with a provocative statement.
Speaking at a BJP rally in Delhi, ahead of state elections, Jyoti encouraged the audience to make a decision, saying “People of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (followers of Ram – a major Hindu deity) or a government of those who are Haraamzadon (illegitimate).”
The Minister swiftly made a public apology, but the storm over her using an expletive to brand the religious minorities of the country ended only after Prime Minister Modi himself appeared in both houses of Parliament and urged the opposition to accept the apology tendered by saying she is a ‘first-time MP from rural background.’
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Anto Akkara, World Watch Monitor