BJP

Compassion International and India: The New York Times leaves a UN-shaped hole

Compassion International and India: The New York Times leaves a UN-shaped hole

If you have followed news in India in recent years, you know that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party -- commonly known as the BJP -- has continued its efforts to promote "Hindutva," or Hindu-ness, which essentially argues that Hinduism is an essential component of what it means to be a citizen of India.

Thus, it's goal is to defeat secular pluralism and the recognition of a valid role for other faiths in public life. The side effect has, in many cases, been a crackdown on many of the activities of other faiths in India -- especially ministries linked to foreign groups.

Tensions between Muslims and Hindus remain a fact of life. Meanwhile, attacks on Christians -- including a much-publicized gang rape of a 71-year-old nun -- have risen by 20 or 30 percent in recent years.

This brings us to a detailed New York Times report on the latest battle in this conflict, which ran with this headline: "Major Christian Charity Is Closing India Operations Amid a Crackdown."

The key is that officials in India are accusing a major ministry of evangelism, of converting people to Christianity.  What the story never addresses are these questions: As a matter of human rights, do citizens in India have the right to convert to another faith? Do members of one faith have a right to discuss their faith with others? Here is the overture:

NEW DELHI -- India’s crackdown on foreign aid will claim its most prominent casualty this month, as a Colorado-based Christian charity that is one of India’s biggest donors closes its operations here after 48 years, informing tens of thousands of children that they will no longer receive meals, medical care or tuition payments.
The shutdown of the charity, Compassion International, on suspicion of engaging in religious conversion, comes as India, a rising economic power with a swelling spirit of nationalism, curtails the flow of foreign money to activities it deems “detrimental to the national interest.”

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Indian PM's mild reaction to violence over eating cows gets few bites in U.S. media

Indian PM's mild reaction to violence over eating cows gets few bites in U.S. media

Scripture, as most GetReligion readers surely know, can be read in a myriad of contradictory ways. That includes interpretations that justify racism, slavery and  punishing or even eradicating those who believe or act differently.

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others are guilty of this. As are Hindus, despite their penchant for theological pluralism.

Now we have a politically influential Indian Hindu journal writing that the Vedas, Hinduism's oldest scriptural texts, say it is permissible to kill "sinners" who slaughter cows, which are revered in Hindu culture.

I doubt Mahatma Gandhi would have agreed with this. But then again, he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist who conceived the world through a darker  and narrower lens

If you're wondering about the news hook for this post is, it may be because other than The New York Times, American news media have paid little ongoing attention to this growing story (or so my relatively quick Web search found).

But look no further than the late-September killing of a Muslim Indian who was set upon by a Hindu mob acting on rumors that he had slaughtered a cow for food, an allegation that has not held up, according to later reports. He was one of three people to die in the last month in violent incidents related to consuming beef.

Here's a Times story summing up the basic situation. And here's a BBC report that explains India's laws concerning the slaughtering and eating of cows.

Note the Times story's critical political angle.

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Oh yes, there are sacred cows in news reporting about India

Oh yes, there are sacred cows in news reporting about India

India’s minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, has grasped the third rail of Indian politics, launching a sectarian attack on Muslims and Christians for their treatment of cows.

Or has she? India’s press has not quite made up its mind as to whether Ms. Gandhi is pushing animal rights, corruption, terrorism or religion. And, from what has been printed so far in the major dailies, the press does not want to find out.
 
In the political jargon of the Anglosphere, the “third rail” of politics is THE issue politicians avoid discussing. In America the third rail (named for the high voltage power line that provides power for trains and subway cars) is social-security reform. For Australia it is asylum seekers, while in Britain the big three (Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats) do not discuss Muslim immigration and multiculturalism.
 
In India the third rail is religion in public life, or looked at from a different perspective, the secular state. 

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