Christians in India demand increased security ahead of Christmas celebrations

Christians protesting against attacks on churches in Delhi in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 23 December 2017

Christians in India demand increased security ahead of Christmas celebrations

NEW DELHI: The president of the Catholic Church in India has expressed concern over the rising number of attacks against Christians, and has urged the government to ensure their security.
“Recent incidents in some states (in India) have created anxiety among Christians,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis told Arab News.
He and other church leaders met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to press for greater security for the Christian community.
“The minister assured us that immediate action would be taken to bring the culprits to justice and ensure the safety of the community,” Cleemis said.
Last week, 30 Catholic choir singers were attacked in the Satna district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh by right-wing Hindus who accused them of practicing religious conversion.
Local church leaders accused police of arresting the choir members instead of the culprits. “What happened in Satna isn’t an encouraging sign for minorities,” said Cleemis.
“You arrest people on the basis of a rumor, you ignore arson and assault, and you let the culprits go scot free. This worries us,” he added.
“We need the government to act immediately to ensure all possible ways of giving confidence to minorities in India,” Cleemis said.
“India belongs to everyone. If something happens to one community, it affects the entire country. We want a united India with diversity intact.”
Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “No such attack on Christians took place in Madhya Pradesh,” BJP spokesman Deepak Vijaywargiya told Arab News. “Since this is an election year, such allegations arise to serve certain vested interests.”
Christians were also reportedly attacked on Friday in the BJP-governed western state of Rajasthan, again over accusations of religious conversion, a charge the minority community in India vehemently denies.
Earlier this week, in the Aligarh district of the BJP-governed eastern state of Uttar Pradesh, a Hindu group pledging allegiance to a local BJP parliamentarian warned Christian schools against celebrating Christmas. “India is increasingly becoming unsafe and hostile to religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims,” Harsh Mander, director of the Center for Equity Studies, told Arab News.


India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

Updated 19 min 25 sec ago

India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

  • Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested at his residence in Srinagar
  • ‘We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be’
NEW DELHI: A Parliament member who is a senior pro-India politician in Indian-controlled Kashmir was arrested Monday under a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.
Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested at his residence in Srinagar, the summer capital and main city of the disputed Himalayan region.
“We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be,” said Muneer Khan, a top police official.
Abdullah is the first pro-India politician who has been arrested under the Public Safety Act, under which rights activists say more than 20,000 Kashmiris have been detained in the last two decades.
Amnesty International has called the PSA a “lawless law,” and rights groups say India has used the law to stifle dissent and circumvent the criminal justice system, undermining accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.
The PSA came into effect in 1978, under the government of Abdullah’s father, who himself was a highly popular Kashmir leader.
The law, in its early days, was supposedly meant to target timber smugglers in Kashmir. After an armed rebellion started in the region in 1989, the law was used against rebels and anti-India protesters.
Abdullah’s residence was declared a subsidiary jail and he was put under house arrest on Aug. 5 when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government in New Delhi stripped Jammu and Kashmir of semi-autonomy and statehood, creating two federal territories.
Thousands of additional Indian troops were sent to the Kashmir Valley, already one of the world’s most militarized regions. Telephone communications, cellphone coverage, broadband Internet and cable TV services were cut for the valley’s 7 million people, although some communications have been gradually restored.
On Aug. 6, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah denied to the lower house of Parliament that Abdullah had been detained or arrested.
“If he (Abdullah) does not want to come out of his house, he cannot be brought out at gunpoint,” Shah said, when other parliamentarians expressed concern over Abdullah’s absence during the debate on Kashmir’s status.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court sought a response from the central government and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking to produce Abdullah before the court.
Many anti-India protesters as well as pro-India Kashmiri leaders have been held in jails and other makeshift facilities to contain protests against India’s decisions, according to police officials.
Kashmir’s special status was instituted shortly after India achieved independence from Britain in 1947. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, but each control only part of it.
India has often tried to suppress uprisings in the region, including a bloody armed rebellion in 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed since that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.