The fates of religious minorities in India such as Christians and Muslims seem to have become concerning since the BJP swept the majority vote in two consecutive general elections in 2014 and 2019. The calls for violence against the minorities have paved the way for a stringent ‘anti-conversion law’ that aims to target the alleged forced conversion by directly targeting minority communities.
In a similar tone, Swami Parmatmanand, who is known for his hate speeches and anti-minority utterances called for targeted killings of the minorities involved in these alleged forced conversions earlier this month. Speaking at a massive protest rally organised in Chhattisgarh’s Surguja district on October 1, 2021 against the alleged spike in the forced conversion of Hindus to Christianity, Swami Parmatmanand demanded targeted killings of the minority community members involved. Along with other hateful remarks, he voiced his appeal to behead Christians in the presence of influential leaders of the BJP namely Ramvichar Netam, Nand Kumar Sai and spokesperson Anurag Singh Deo.
“I am a saint. I don’t care, I will tell you clearly. Ramvichar ji has said the same thing but he is a little unclear. Keep a lathi at home… In our villages, people keep hand-axes. Why do they keep axes? Why do you keep a farsa? Behead them – those who come for conversion. Now you’ll say that I am spreading hate although I’m a saint. But it’s important to ignite the fire sometimes. I am telling you; anyone who comes into your house, street, neighbourhood, village, don’t forgive them… I want to tell those Christians who went away (converted), why did you leave the ocean for the well? I want you to talk to them politely first. Roko (stop), phir toko (protest), phir thoko (shoot),” said Swami Parmatmanand, whose anti-conversion rhetoric is being criticised heavily by the opposition and on social media.
In the video circulated on social media, Nand Kumar Sai, former MP and ex-chairman of the National Scheduled Tribes Commission can be seen smiling and clapping on the Swami’s remarks against minorities.
Swami Parmatmanand is the former head of the Sanskrit board, known for his anti-minority speeches. Following the lynching of Pehlu Khan, he had criticised PM Modi’s remarks that anti-social elements were masquerading as gau rakshaks, and asked the government to reward those who kill cow-smugglers. “Cow-killers should be shot with glass bullets,” the spiritual leader had said in 2017.
The states of UP, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh have recently provided agency to these leaders for hate speeches that polarise the society further, also impacting the electoral arithmetic and degrading the motto of democracy.
According to the 2011 census, 79.80 percent of the population in India is Hindu, 14.23 percent is Muslim, 2.30 percent is Christian, 1.72 percent is Sikh, 0.70 percent is Buddhist and 0.37 percent is Jain. A couple of months ago, the BJP’s founding organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) reportedly met in Chitrakot, Madhya Pradesh to discuss forced conversions and raised the slogan: “Chadar Mukt, Father Mukt Bharat”.
By calling all conversions forceful, leaders have claimed that those who convert are being openly lured in return for land, money, and women. This has left little space for practicing personal and religious freedom.
The respective laws against conversion in UP, Gujarat, and MP have become problematic for those belonging to minority communities and those who wish to convert willingly. A special task force in UP has apparently claimed that they have busted a conversion racket that was being run by Muslim clerics. Opposition leaders and critics have, however, raised their voices against the arrests of the people allegedly involved in this case on the grounds of intolerance.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, while speaking at an annual Dussehra celebration, expressed deep concern about the “unnatural growth” of the Muslim and Christian populations in India.
Incidents of violence against minorities have become common. On October 3, more than 200 unidentified men and women, allegedly belonging to local right-wing groups vandalised a Church in Uttarakhand and attacked several people who had assembled there for Sunday prayers. A private Christian prayer house in Udupi district (Karnataka) was reportedly attacked by a group of Hindu extremists from the Hindu Jagaran Vedike, which stormed the Pragathi Centre. In the latest incident, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has urged the Karnataka government to withdraw the directive issued to district authorities and the police intelligence wing to conduct a survey of the churches in the state, and has objected to the proposed anti-conversion law.
Human rights groups that monitor atrocities against Christians in India have documented violence by Hindutva groups from all states and released a fact-finding report titled ‘Christians under attack in India’. It highlights that over 300 such instances have been reported from across 21 states so far this year, especially in northern India.
Christians and Muslims are seen as threats to Hindu nationalism, a serious matter that needs to be addressed by the top leadership of the BJP. However, the leadership has only maintained a diplomatic stance, seemingly emboldening the extremist forces to carry out hateful propaganda against minorities.