Time to Contain the Indian Facists

Fascism arrived in India around 1925 with the arrival of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). These right-wing Hindu elements did not make a “serious” dent on wider Indian society (apart from killing Mahatma Gandhi), until it entered its modern avatar when L. K. Advani began his Rath Yatra from the Somnath Temple in Gujarat in 1990. Since then, the country has never been the same. The destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 is a watershed in the communal and divisive politics of the Sangh Parivar with its many affiliates.

At first, many of us Christians thought that the attacks were only against “them” (meaning, the Muslims). However, 1998 – 99 truly exposed the ideology of the Sangh Parivar, wherein they systematically attacked and even killed Christians and attacked several Christian institutions in different parts of the country. Gujarat is a classic example of how effectively they sought to decimate a miniscule minority. They have been relentless in their campaign so far, be it in Orissa or Karnataka, Maharashtra or Chattisgarh, with their vicious agenda, “to divide and rule” and to spread their tentacles of hate everywhere. The recent investigative exposures of their role in terrorist activities in different parts of the country clearly indicates that “they stop at nothing”.

Some Christians have very naively fallen into their trap, providing them with the legitimacy they hanker for : “dialoguing” with them, signing peace accords, “agreeing” on the way they defocus the reality with non-issues, etc. Over the years, in very manipulative ways, they have called the shots, setting the agenda for us.

They have made of us “reactionaries”, creating panic and fear in the ranks, proving (because of our fear of them) in no uncertain terms that many of us really “have no faith in Jesus”. They have hit us in vulnerable spots and in many ways, we have also demonstrated to them that “we have no roadmap of our own”.

We have a duty to preserve the integrity, the diversity and the secular fabric of our country. As citizens of this great land, the onus is clearly on us to safeguard the rights and freedom of every single citizen of this country. Today, we have no choice. We have to get our ACT together now. We have to set our “agenda”. We can possibly do so through :

– to make everyone aware of their Constitutional rights and freedom
– to expose the divisive and hate agenda of some political parties and their terrorist outfits
– to campaign that every single adult citizen has his / her name on the Electoral Roll and is able to cast one’s vote for a political party that is not communal and / or fascist
– to make people realize that they cannot be treated as second class citizens anywhere in this country
– to get involved in advocacy issues

– to collaborate with all men and women of goodwill
– to join secular / civil society movements, for a more humane, just and peaceful India
– to defend the rights of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized
– to work together with our other Christian brethren and ensure the formation of a United Christian Forum for Human Rights in every State
– to become more of a “Communicating Church”
– to broad base our efforts
– to be in touch with our Alumni, Parent Teacher Associations and demand that they stand up for the rights of all
– to ensure that we do not “re-invent the wheel” but are able to use effectively what is already in the common domain

– to set up immediately, a Task Force (Think-tank / coordinating and monitoring mechanism) in every Diocese
– this Task Force should consist of not more than five to seven members who are competent, capable and committed. At east half of them should be from the laity (including women)
– this Task Force is not a new organization nor a controlling / extra-constitutional authority but an empowered group that is able to work in cohesion, effectively respond to crisis and to communicate with all
– working together with this Task Force, should be four collaborative units :

  • i) legal / human rights
  • ii) media communication / PRO
  • iii) research and documentation
  • iv) relief and rehabilitation

– these units may be “housed” either in existing structures / Commissions / Congregations within the Diocese (eg. Relief and Rehabilitation could be with the Diocesan Social Works Office, Legal and Human Rights could be with the Justice and Peace Commission, etc.)
– if needed, these units could operate separately, provided they don’t duplicate or create conflict with other established mechanisms (taking into consideration that these latter are actually effective)
– each of these four units (of not more than three members each ) will have their own  networks, database, contacts, etc. (eg. the Legal and Human Rights unit will be in contact  with and will access several lawyers, human rights activists across the State)
– each unit will have their responsibilities (eg. training) clearly chalked out and will ensure that they complement one another and work as an effective mechanism
– the Task Force and its units will widely propagate the names, details like telephone numbers, emails and their respective roles and responsibilities
– if possible, the Task Force should have a website with their complete details
– for effective coordination, the Task Force and related units should be under ONE ROOF (and preferably NOT in the Bishop’s House)
– all Dioceses will revisit Church documents on Social Teaching in the Church and the mandate which the CBCI has given to itself on various issues like communication, education, women, etc.
In order to get our ACT together, we have to set the agenda and have our own “roadmap”. This “roadmap” must include the following elements :

  • PRAYER – the way Jesus taught us to pray
  • PREPARATION – meticulous and detailed, for the tough journey ahead
  • PARTICIPATIVE – as Vatican II of the Church desires
  • PROPHETIC – which is “the role” of the disciple of Christ
  • PRAXIS – because “not all who say Lord, Lord….”

Yes, it is high time, we get our ACT together, and reclaim the lost space which is legitimately ours. (* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of “Prashant”, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace) – sjprashant@gmail.com


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