A catalogue of crimes

Print edition : January 30, 1999
PRAVEEN SWAMI

AFTER shaming India with the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its patron bodies in the Sangh Parivar sought to project a new moderation. Propelled to power by their flagrant communal campaign in March 1998, Hindutva formations claimed that they would conduct themselves in a responsible manner and respect the country's Constitution and its laws.

However, communal incidents that occurred from March 1998 onwards reveal that precisely the reverse has been true. Although there were no major communal riots during this period, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena and other Hindutva forces were engaged in the systematic intimidation of minority communities. This compilation by Frontline is far from comprehensive. Put together from newspaper reports, human rights investigations and documentation prepared by independent and community groups,Frontline's list excludes dozens of claims of communal violence and instances of hate propaganda which appeared to lack integrity, precision or clarity. Programmes such as the communal- and caste-biased encounters engineered by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and the Shiv Sena in Mumbai were left out altogether because of difficulties in ascertaining exactly which killings were motivated by religious hate.

The scores of specific manifestations of hate politics that Frontline has compiled range from outright violence to propagandistic activity. Concentrated mostly in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the incidents give an insight into the Hindu Right's current agenda. Attacks on Muslims account for just over a quarter of the total. This marks a shift from the pattern of single-minded attacks on Muslims that spearheaded the Hindutva campaign in the early 1990s. Only one incident - in Jammu and Kashmir - involved loss of life to Muslims. The vast majority of attacks, in which damage to property and injuries were common, were aimed at Christians. In one incident VHP members attacked a group of human rights activists, mistaking them for missionary workers.

1998 March 2, Gujarat

March 4, Gujarat: A meeting of evangelists at the Vadodara Polo Ground is disrupted by VHP-Bajrang Dal cadre, who injure several people. (A day earlier the same activists attempted to set the stage on fire.)

March 13, Maharashtra: Alleged Hindu fundamentalists attack Christian pilgrims in Khanvel.

March 16, Uttar Pradesh: Bajrang Dal activists attack a Christian meeting in Kanpur, resulting in injuries to several people and loss of property.

March 19, Jammu and Kashmir: Four Muslims are beaten to death in Karara near Doda by RSS workers in reprisal for the killing of an RSS worker two days earlier by a different group of Muslims for allegedly molesting a local girl.

April 11, Gujarat: Alleged VHP-Bajrang Dal activists armed with hockey sticks, cricket bats and rods, attack a Christian group observing Passion Week in Palanpur.

April 16, Gujarat: A church under construction is brought down at Naroda near Ahmedabad. (The structure appears to have been built without legal approvals, but temples nearby, which were also constructed without the necessary legal approvals, were not touched.)

May 3, Maharashtra: Shiv Sena activists disrupt a concert by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai.

May 8, Jammu and Kashmir: Mobs of RSS workers in Poonch destroy government buildings and attempt to attack Muslim homes in protest against the killing of four people by terrorists in Surankot.

May 11, Maharashtra: Shiv Sena activists assault a missionary, Octavio Nevis, in Ambernath.

May 15, Bihar: Modestus Tirkey, headmaster of a Catholic school, is attacked in Ranchi.

May 18, Gujarat: Hindu fundamentalists attack a Catholic priest, Xavier Amalraj, at Pilpilvada near Zankhav.

June 16, Maharashtra: The St. Savariyar Church in Srilankapada slum in Mumbai's Malad suburb is demolished. Unauthorised Hindu structures are, however, left untouched.

June 17, Gujarat: St. Xavier's School and Lourdes Convent in Surat are served with orders by the Collector, Surat. Records of admissions and applications are confiscated. School officials claim that this is done to harass them.

June 21, Gujarat: A prayer hall is burnt down in Singana village, Dangs district.

June 23, Gujarat: After two Muslim youths elope with Hindu girls from Randhikpur village, VHP and Bajrang Dal squads force over 400 Muslim villagers to leave their homes in an act of collective reprisal. The administration and the police stand by and watch as independent fact-finding teams and journalists visiting Randhikpur are attacked.

June 29, Gujarat: A prayer hall in Umerpada village in Dangs district is attacked by assailants who, however, fail in their attempts to set it on fire.

July 3, New Delhi: News breaks of the plans of the BJP Government of Delhi to remove churches from the list of recognised places of worship on the pretext that wine is served (as a holy sacrament) in the churches.

July 8, Gujarat: The body of Samuel Christian is exhumed from a graveyard in Kapadvanj in Nadiad district, allegedly by VHP activists, and dumped near a Methodist church nearby.

July 11, Maharashtra: Two Christian workers are reportedly beaten in Bhind.

July 12, Gujarat: Christians gathered for worship at a prayer hall in Dhavalidod are threatened by the village leader. The church's lock was broken later the same day and a cross removed.

July 17, Karnataka: VHP activists raid at least 11 Christian-run schools in Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya and Mangalore, disrupting their functioning. In one case, a nun who protested was spat at.

July 18, Gujarat: The Shantiniketan High School in Zankhav near Surat, run by Christian missionaries, is vandalised. The playground is ploughed with a tractor. (Violence follows false reports in the Gujarati language press that the school's adivasi students are forcibly converted, whereas only 152 of the school's 750 students are Christians.)

July 18, Gujarat: A prayer hall is burnt down in Bhapkal village in Dangs district.

July 18, Tamil Nadu: An Assemblies of God church is attacked and church materials are looted in Anaipalayam.

July 20, Gujarat: Copies of the New Testament are burnt allegedly by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists at IP Mission School in Rajkot. The VHP says that the request on a page in the copies of the Bibles distributed by Gideons International asking believers to sign as proof that they have accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour is evidence of forcible conversions.

July 23, Gujarat: Mobs allegedly led by a low-level revenue official attack adivasis at a prayer meeting in Borkhal village.

July 24, Gujarat: Bajrang Dal and RSS activists attack Catholic priests in Isar, a small adivasi village near Zankhav.

July 25, Gujarat: The body of a Christian is exhumed from a graveyard in Gandhinagar, allegedly by Bajrang Dal activists.

August 9, Gujarat: A church is destroyed allegedly by RSS cadre in Ahmedabad.

August 15, Gujarat: Communal riots break out in Sanjeli against the background of the BJP-VHP's efforts to communalise inter-community weddings. The home of a Christian priest, Joe Vas, is attacked. (Riots follow a Dharam Sabha organised in the town three days earlier, where BJP-VHP leaders made speeches inciting adivasis against Muslims. Independent investigators found that in this case the root cause of the riot was the local panchayat's refusal to honour court orders granting a Muslim fishing rights in a local pond.)

August 15, Uttar Pradesh: Bajrang Dal and VHP cadre attack church activists in Robertsganj.

August 25, West Bengal: Bikash Das, a church worker, is allegedly assaulted by a Trinamul Congress leader.

August 31, Bihar: A church is demolished in Kobatoli village in Gumla district.

September 5, New Delhi: The Bajrang Dal announces that it will launch a 'new Quit India Movement' to remove all Christian missionaries from the country. The organisation, along with the VHP, demands an end to forced conversions they allege are taking place.

September 23, Madhya Pradesh: A crowd allegedly led by a BJP MLA attack Edward Sarel, a Christian priest, in Jhamli village, 10 km from Jhabua.

September 23, Uttar Pradesh: Nuns at the Clarist Convent in Baghpat are assaulted.

September 25, Madhya Pradesh: Nuns are raped at a Christian convent in Jhabua. Although specific culpability for the incident remains unclear, it came in the wake of the VHP-BJP's anti-Christian campaign.

September 26, Uttar Pradesh: Police and local administration officials barge into the Jiwan Jyoti Christian Hospital campus in Robertsganj and allegedly misbehave with patients and hospital staff.

September 26, Uttar Pradesh: Activists of the Hindu Jagran Manch, the Bajrang Dal and the Rana Tharu Parishad break into the Union Church at Amaun near Khatima in Udham Singh Nagar district and install a Siva idol.

September 26, New Delhi: A statue of St. Bernard is broken and thrown out of the grounds of Jesus and Mary College in New Delhi.

September 30, New Delhi: Acharya Giriraj Kishore, secretary-general of the VHP, asks Christian missionaries to leave India.

October 1, Gujarat: The VHP and Bajrang Dal ban pop dandiya ras dancing in several cities of Gujarat and forbid Muslim film stars from participating in these events.

October 1, Rajasthan: School books are found to have been rewritten to suit the Hindu Right's agenda. Articles by RSS chief Rajendra Singh, his deputy K.S. Sudershan, Panchjanya editor Tarun Vijay and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch's Jalam Singh Rawlot found to appear in Class 9 textbooks.

October 1, Karnataka: Convent schools in Karnataka and some other States begin to receive threatening letters and in some cases visits by local VHP leaders demanding that they stop their supposed prosletysation activities.

October 1, Uttar Pradesh: The Uttar Pradesh Government issues a Government Order making the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory in schools in the State. Public outrage and the threat of legal action by the Minorities Commission and independent groups force it to back down and lead to the resignation of the Education Minister.

October 7, Uttar Pradesh: The staff of the Christy Jyoti Convent School in Baghpat is threatened by villagers who have been told that children are forcibly converted there.

October 18, Maharashtra: Christian villagers in Karye Sadapada village near Peth are attacked after they refuse to make contributions of cash and rice for an adivasi festival. A church is destroyed.

October 27, Uttar Pradesh: The BJP-dominated Municipal Corporation of Ayodhya passes a resolution banning burials within the city limits. Ayodhya has a large Muslim population and is the site of several graveyards.

October 30, Gujarat: Bajrang Dal-VHP members armed with belts, chains and lathis attack delegates at the National Christian Conference in Baroda.

October 31, New Delhi: A spokesperson for Vidya Bharati, the pro-RSS educational body, says that 14-year-old school-children should not be taught "salacious texts", which in its view includes poems by Alfred Noyes.

November 3, Gujarat: VHP members attack social groups seeking to end anti-women exorcism rituals at the Kaliyaji temple in Shamlaji.

November 4, Gujarat: Miscreants, allegedly instigated by VHP-Bajrang Dal workers, attempt to set fire to a chapel in Baurigautha village in Dangs district. Churches in Nirgumandal village are also damaged.

November 5, Gujarat: A church is burned down at Gadhavi village in Dangs district.

November 9, Haryana: A convent in Khera Khummar village in Jhajjar district is broken into and two nuns are beaten and asked to leave the district.

November 11, Gujarat: Hindu fundamentalists force residents of Daghunia village near the Satpura road in Dangs to enter hot springs for ritual purification. The village sarpanch also issues orders barring adivasi Christians from drawing water from the community well, grazing their livestock on community land and gaining employment in government projects.

November 12, Gujarat: Churches are burned down in Kamath village.

November 13, Haryana: A missionary team from Punjab is attacked by VHP activists in Beri town while distributing leaflets on gospels.

November 24, Karnataka: Forty armed Hindu activists, allegedly affiliated to the RSS, attack a Christian service at Kulai near Mangalore.

December 6, 1992: Hindutva hordes bring down the Babri Masjid.-

December 1, Maharashtra: Lumpen elements belonging to the Shiv Sena storm cinemas in Mumbai and stop screenings of Deepa Mehta's film Fire on the grounds that it is "anti-Hindu".

December 3, Karnataka: Police action terminates a rath yatra organised by VHP activists with the public support of Karwar's BJP MP Ananthakumar Hegde to storm the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Abdul Azeez Macci at Chikmagalur. The VHP and the BJP claim that the shrine is in fact a Hindu temple, which they wish to call Datta Peetha.

December 3, New Delhi: Shiv Sena lumpens attack cinemas screening Fire and follow this up with attacks on a cinema in Patiala, Punjab.

December 11, Maharashtra: Shiv Sena corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation move a motion to make the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory in Greater Mumbai's schools.

December 12, Maharashtra: Shiv Sena protestors throw stones at actor Dilip Kumar's house for saying that Fire has a right to be screened. Vulgar slogans are chanted by Sena activists who strip down to their underwear. The police stand by.

December 14, Gujarat: Churches are burned down at Lachanchariya village and several other places.

December 24, Maharashtra: Christmas celebrations in Mumbai's Bandra suburb are disrupted by Bajrang Dal activists.

December 25, Gujarat: A VHP-affiliated Hindu Jagran Manch rally in Ahwa town in Dangs district, timed to coincide with Christmas gatherings, ends with attacks on schools and churches throughout the district. The attacks last several days. (The rally was preceded by the distribution of offensive pamphlets about Christian priests and nuns.)

1999 January 5, Maharashtra

January 6, New Delhi: Shiv Sena activists dig up the pitch at Ferozeshah Kotla cricket stadium to prevent an India-Pakistan match from being played there. The Sena also threatens to disrupt a New Delhi-Lahore bus service.

January 18, Maharashtra: The office of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in Mumbai is stormed by Shiv Sena activists and trophies of historic value are damaged.

January 18, Tamil Nadu: The Shiv Sena unit in Chennai threatens to disrupt "at any cost" the first India-Pakistan cricket Test scheduled to be held in the city.

January 19, Maharashtra: Members of Cable Sena, a union of Shiv Sena-affiliated cable television operators, threaten to cut off broadcasts of the India-Pakistan cricket series and boycott the ESPN sports channel.

January 19, Maharashtra: Political activists and journalists protesting against the Shiv Sena's attack on the BCCI office are arrested, but no action is taken against the group that indulged in violence. The police refuse to file First Information Reports from protestors who allege brutality.

January 20, Mumbai: Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray announces that Kashmiri Muslim traders will not be allowed to set up shop in Goa.

January 23, Orissa: Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons Philip, 9, and Timothy, 6, are burnt to death at Manoharpur village.

January 23, Gujarat: A mob attacks and burns down two Christian prayer halls in Songarh taluk in Surat district.

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