Christian leader John Dayal says some Muslim individuals and organisations have started collecting database but given the size of the community, it’s too little and too slow.
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – “Although Muslims are the largest religious minority in India, they have no centralised system of documenting cases of atrocities on them. The current regime led by the Bharatiya Janata Party is hostile to minorities. They are specially targeting and persecuting Muslims.
“Documentation and data collection of crimes against them is a major tool of defending oneself in a democracy but I see no organised effort by the Muslim community in this regard.”
These are the words of John Dayal, a human rights and political activist who is also a prominent face of the Christian community in the capital.
He was talking to Clarion India in the context of a report issued last week by the Religious Liberty Commission, which is an arm of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), a national alliance of Christians in the country. According to the report, between January and June 2020, 135 incidents of hate crimes, including three murders were committed against Christians in India. These included cases of lynching, community ostracisation and concerted efforts to stop them from prayers and religious gatherings.
“Actual cases must be much more. We cannot get all the cases recorded. This is despite the fact that we make an all-out effort to record cases of atrocities throughout the country. Still, we can’t claim that our report is comprehensive,” said Dayal.
EFI employs three ways to get required information: a helpline number where any Christian can call and record the cases; community representatives appointed at various places who report the cases; and complaints registered with the police.
Dayal says not all cases are reported. Christian population is scattered. At many places, they are lone families. They avoid complaining or reporting to the police, fearing reprisals by the local population.
Muslims, he says, are in a much better position to work at community level. They have all the resources. Still a systemic database of the cases of hate crimes against the community and persecution at various levels is missing. Sikhs which are much smaller than Muslims in population are doing better.
After the 1984 Sikh pogrom, cases of atrocities on them are very few. Even if their data basing system is not foolproof, it is not affecting the community because 90 percent of their population is concentrated in Punjab. Another eight percent is in Delhi where they are very strong.
In the case of Muslims, data-collection is the need of the hour. It would help the community fight at national and international level, he said, adding of late some individuals and organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami have started doing it but given the size of the community, it’s too little and too slow.
The preface to the 2019 report which was released by the Christian group four months ago focuses on the horrors of Delhi riots of February. “A consummately organized hate campaign against India’s Muslim population, beginning mid-December 2019, and erupting in a pogrom in mid-February 2020 against them in their ilakas (loosely translated as ghettos) in the North-eastern suburbs of the Indian capital city New Delhi, has not only delayed the analysis of the persecution of Christians in the year gone by, but raised structural questions on the security of all religious minorities in the country, with questions for the Church and the Believers’ community if they can ever think of a safe haven in their motherland where one group is so brutally targeted,” said the opening paragraph of the preface.
And it concludes by saying: “As far as the recent Delhi violence is concerned, a three-day silence by the Union and state governments and the political leadership, eye-witness accounts of the participation of policemen in the torture of young Muslim men, the failure of the officers to act on emergency calls by victims, and the lack of action against hate mongers have led civil society to draw parallels with the pogrom against Sikhs in 1984 following the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.”
Explaining Christians’ concern over persecution of Muslims, Dayal said if Muslims were threatened, then Christians are also not safe. “If someone is using his nails and teeth against Muslims, sooner or later, he would also use it against Christians,” Dayal said.
He was highly critical of the misuse of police force which, according to him, has been communalised. “If you radicalise the police force against Muslims, that same police will also target Christians, then Sikhs, then Dalits. There is no end to this. It’s like you add salt or sugar to water. It can’t be plain water anymore. You can’t separate salt or sugar from it. The radicalised police will not leave anyone to live in peace.”
The EFI report termed the Delhi violence as ‘pogrom’. Earlier, commentators like Siddharth Bhatia of The Wire said that ‘Hindutva project of finishing off the minorities has only just begun,’ therefore, the Delhi violence should be called by its real name, ‘Ethnic Cleansing’.
Dayal had a slightly different take on this. He said he would not call it ‘ethnic cleansing’, but, of course, the ground for it has been laid. “A generation has been prepared who does not know how to behave in a civilised manner with Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others. This generation thinks that those who don’t say ‘Jai Sri Ram’ or ‘Jai Modi’, and don’t dress like us are our enemies.”
Dayal rued the fact that even the parents of such children were reluctant to correct them. They are not telling their wards that those who greet you in Muslim, Christian or Sikh way are like your brothers; they are also citizens of India. These children are growing up by knowing that only people like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Kapil Mishra, Pragya Thakur are the builders of India. “They would not know who Gandhi or Nehru or Maulana Azad or Ambedker or Father Andrews or Sister Nivedita were,” he said.
But Dayal is not ready to give up. “We will have to challenge those who are poisoning the society. They must be told that what they are doing is suicidal for the country.”
He said people of his generation and the preceding generation were raising their voices. “We have to believe in ourselves.”
Will his voice be heard? Will people like him be able to force the erring rulers to listen? His reply was: “InshaAllah.”