Cardinal Telesphore Toppo
New Delhi, Sept. 13: A month after the Jharkhand Assembly passed an anti-conversion law, the Catholic Bishops Council of India - the apex body of Roman Catholic Christians in the country - appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "curb the spread of hatred by CM Raghubar Das".
In his letter, CBCI secretary general Theodore Mascarenhas said he was compelled to write to the Prime Minister after Ranchi archbishop Cardinal Telesphore Toppo's effigy was burnt by the Hindu Jagran Manch last week. He expressed the fear that the hatred being spread and the effigy-burning could "turn into physical violence".
Mascarenhas wrote: "Yes, perhaps those leading this ideological hatred, targeting the Christian community do not know what they are doing, where they are leading the people to: on the road of hatred and division. As I tossed in bed, I thought there is one person to whom I could appeal - You, Honourable Prime Minister. Because time and again you have told us " sab ka saath, sab ka vikas". If I am not mistaken, it was on this slogan that you personally campaigned in Jharkhand for the state elections, which made Mr Raghubar Das the chief minister."
Referring to a government advertisement, Mascarenhas said: "In a first for any chief minister he came out with this particular full front page advertisement in the prominent dailies of the state... It contains a spurious quote of Mahatma Gandhi without naming the source, to vilify the Christian community. The advertisement accuses the Christian missionaries of converting poor Dalits and tribals (Vanvasis, a term, we think Mahatma Gandhi never used for tribals), whom the quote describes as innocent and ignorant. The tribals and Dalits are described as 'simple and mute as cows'."
Mascarenhas said that within two weeks of the advertisement appearing, "while the Jharkhandis were still shocked over the hate-filled advertisement, the ruling party brought into the state Assembly and passed two important bills: The Freedom of Religion Bill and the Amendments to Land Acquisition Act 2013, in record time practically without discussion".
He asked if the "hatred-filled advertisement" and the "Freedom of Religion Bill" were smokescreens for the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act. "Is there something more than meets the eye?"
The senior cleric further wrote: "Dear Prime Minister, the Church has as usual not responded to the provocations of the Chief Minister. It is not because we are afraid, it is not because we are weak. That the Christians have not responded should not be taken as a sign of weakness. We are not speaking about ourselves, we are speaking about the people of Jharkhand. It is not possible that so much money is spent by the constitutional authority of the state on front page advertisements sowing hate, when health facilities are so poor that stories of parents carrying children on foot for 10-12km to arrive at the nearest hospital make news."
The cleric said the whole nation "applauded you when on Independence Day this year you gave a clarion call from the ramparts of Red Fort, 'in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed'."
He continued: "Mr. Raghubar Das and his advisers 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. If the chief minister is unable to control his ideological hatred, then it is time for him to go."