Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Catholic Village in India Under Fundamentalist Siege
Bishop of Amravati Calls the Situation "Very Serious"
AMRAVATI, India, FEB. 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Hindu fundamentalists are subjecting the people of a Catholic village to threats and attacks, says a bishop in the state of Maharashtra. Rajura is the only Catholic village in Amravati, one of the six divisions of Maharashtra with an independent municipal administration.
The Catholics, all tribals, are descendants of migrants from Madhya Pradesh; their families have been in the village for centuries. They now live in fear for their lives, if they do not reconvert to the Hinduism of their ancestors. "All the people in the village are Catholics, very poor, illiterate, mainly agricultural laborers, but very faithful to the religion," Bishop Edwin Colaço told AsiaNews.
"A few days ago, a Munni, or Hindu holy man, from Ayodhya ... held a huge religious meeting here; it was well attended" by Hindus, the bishop said. "The saffron-clad, spear-bearing Munni attacked the Catholic Church and denounced the missionaries," he said. "He launched into a tirade against the Adivasi [tribals] of Rajura, alleging that missionaries had originally converted them by force, and said that it was his mission to reconvert them to Hinduism." Bishop Colaço, 67, believes that the event was "very well planned by the Hindu Religious Convention.
The Munni had done his homework well and knew the place. ... He urged Hindu villagers to 'kill the Christian Adivasi with swords.'" The group "drove into the Christian village in jeeps, carrying swords and shouting fanatical Hindu slogans. But they found only women, since the men were away at work," the bishop said. "They threatened to kill the women if they did not follow them to the Hindu meeting. The terrified women were then huddled into the jeeps and forcibly brought before the Munni," continued Bishop Colaço.
The prelate said that the "situation is very serious. The Munni has threatened the people of neighboring villages, saying they would be ostracized and would be fined 10,000 rupees if they maintained any contact with tribal Christians." For Bishop Colaço of Amravati, "this is a violation of human rights. Christian Adivasi are poor and illiterate and depend on Hindus for employment. If they are ostracized, they will be denied their means of livelihood. Worse still, many Adivasi have daughters and sisters married to Hindu men and living in other villages. Now the fundamentalists have forbidden any contact with their families."
Bishop Colaço said he wrote the Union Home Minister and the chief minister of Maharashtra asking them to investigate the escalating violence against Christians in Amravati. He also approached the Indian bishops' conference requesting that it intervene.