The Telegraph
Thursday , September 14 , 2017

Church calls for Jharkhand CM's ouster


New Delhi, Sept. 13: The apex body of Roman Catholic Christians in India today appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "curb the spread of hatred by CM Raghubar Das" a month after the Jharkhand government passed a bill restricting religious conversions on August 12.

In his strongly worded letter, Catholic Bishops Council of India (CBCI) secretary-general Theodore Mascarenhas said he was compelled to write to Modi as he was disturbed over the politics of hate unleashed in Jharkhand.

Mascarenhas said Modi had personally campaigned before elections in Jharkhand in 2014 on the inclusive plank of sab ka saath, sab ka vikas that "made Raghubar Das the chief minister of the state", but Das had begun "vitriolic attacks against the Christian community".

"If the chief minister is unable to control his ideological hatred, then it is time for him to go," he said.

Calling last week's effigy burning of Ranchi archbishop Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo by Hindu Jagran Manch his trigger for the letter today, Mascarenhas expressed apprehension that this hatred being spread against Christians could soon "turn into physical violence".

He reminded the Prime Minister that the whole nation "applauded" him when on Independence Day this year he said violence couldn't be allowed in the name of faith.

"Mr Raghubar Das and his advisors at least in the past few months have not shown affiliation to the ideology you are proclaiming. I appeal to you, honourable Prime Minister, with trust and hope to intervene and curb the spread of hate created by the chief minister of Jharkhand. Jharkhandis and Jharkhand deserves better," the senior cleric said.

Referring to full-page government advertisements released in papers a month ago before the anti-conversion bill - which hands out stiff prison terms and cash penalty to organisations and individuals forcing conversions - was passed by the state Assembly, Mascarenhas said it contained "a spurious quote of Mahatma Gandhi without naming the source to vilify the Christian community".

Calling it a first for any chief minister, the cleric said the state government ad accused Christian missionaries of converting poor Dalits and tribals who are described as "simple and mute as cows", and sarcastically asked if the Das government had come into power with votes from these simple creatures. The ad, in Hindi, also called Christian adivasis "rice Christians", he said.

The senior cleric wrote that the church had not responded to the provocations of the chief minister not because it was afraid or weak.

"We are not speaking about ourselves, we are speaking about the people of Jharkhand," he said, wondering why so much money was spent on full-page ads sowing hate when healthcare for children in the state lay in a shambles.

Mascarenhas also questioned if there was any hidden logic behind Jharkhand's new land acquisition amendment bill that was passed with the religion bill on the same day "in record time, practically without discussion".

"One wonders if the hatred-filled advertisement and the Freedom of Religion Bill were smokescreens for the real act of the amendment to land acquisition Act. Is there something more than meets the eye, especially since the governor had earlier refused to sign amendments to the CNT and SPT Acts," he asked.

Jharkhand is the eighth Indian state to pass a bill to restrict the conversion of a citizen's religion.

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