December 24, 2021 8:00:49 pm
Written by Tom Vadakkan
Let the spirit of Yuletide prevail. It is Christmas time and people all over the world are gearing up to celebrate this wonderful festival of peace and harmony. This year’s event is no different except that the resurgence of the coronavirus in a new virulent form – Omicron – is bringing back restrictions. It’s a tough call for governments across the globe, but then all of us are living in difficult times and Christmas is one great occasion where people of different religions come together and soak in the spirit of the festival.
India is no different and in a country where Hindus are dominant, communities join the celebrations with children across their religious beliefs waiting eagerly for Santa to bring in the goodies. Considering the fact that Christians account for just 2.3 per cent of the population, a first time visitor to India around this time will be pleasantly surprised at that celebratory mood in the country. Shopping malls, clubs and private parties indulge in revelry combining it with generosity of sharing warmth, love and affection.
Historically, India is not new to Christianity. Thomas, the apostle, who sailed to the Malabar region in southern Kerala state in 52 AD, brought it to the country. As the years went by, the religion took its roots and spread across the coastal region of the state. Today, Christianity is the third largest religion in India after Hinduism and Islam. Over centuries, the majority community lived in harmony with minorities and this aspect remains integral to the society, irrespective of the region, area or state.
Yet ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014, there has been a concerted campaign to project the regime as one against minorities. Reports appear intermittently across various media platforms as part of an organised propaganda. Nothing can be farther from truth.
The reports emanating from India on attacks on Christians are widely exaggerated and more fine tuned to the old narrative of polarisation, engineered to divide. The fact of the matter is that the Indian government provides citizenship to all minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh – be it Christians Hindus, Sikhs, Jains or Buddhists. That’s the India that practices secularism to the core.
In the last seven years, the Modi government has moved in several directions to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of people, irrespective of their religious affiliations. The government mantra remains “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas” (Take everyone along, Growth for all and Confidence of all”), a model of governance where every citizen is treated as equal. Take a look at the larger picture. Besides Muslims and Hindus, there are several other religions that have remained part of India’s ancient philosophy of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” (The whole world is a family) and among other minorities are the Sikhs, the Jains, the Buddhists, the Parsis – three of these four religions were founded in India. This reflects the Indian ethos of live and let live.
The Modi government has been conscious towards all round growth and has paid attention to the specific requirements of minorities. Take the case of funds allocated under the budget. A quick glance shows that during the last six years, the Modi government has increased funds for minorities to the tune of Rs 1,300 crore.
Many would have heard of the legislative determination of declaring the abhorrent practice of “Triple Talaq” prevalent among the Muslim community. The fact remains that this social welfare measure brought about a major change both in the attitude of a male-dominated society and infused a sense of confidence among women, especially the less literate women who were victims of this practice. Imagine the transformation happening in society. Change occurs as a result of public pressure backed by laws to deal with regressive practices.
Two years ago, Prime Minister Modi came up with a scheme creating hostels for 50 million students, half of whom will be girl children. The earmarking of funds was to translate the government’s commitment to transform the lives of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and communities including Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis. There are other schemes to skill people from various communities and prepare them as the country moves ahead on the atmanirbhar mode in every sphere.
A sustained campaign and politically-motivated propaganda masks the work being done to uplift large sections of minorities, most of whom remain away from the glare and spotlight, caught up as they are in the everyday grind. Christians have no reason to feel alienated. There is just no ground. There is total religious freedom to practice their faith and also in any stream its members wish to. The BJP and its ideological guide, the RSS are making sustained efforts to remove any misconception about the commitment of either in the protection of minorities. Mere platitudes do not serve any purpose. Solid work backed by funds to empower religious minorities is the way forward.
The world today notices the decision of the Pope to visit India. For the record, the last Papal visit occurred during 1999. No guesses for who was the prime minister – it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, an iconic figure in the pantheon of the Hindu Nationalist Party, as the western media prefers to describe the BJP.
As a practising Christian I only see the spirit of Yuletide and prosperity for all living beings.
(Vadakkan is national spokesperson, BJP)
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