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Former Civil Servants Write to PM Modi About ‘Climate of Fear Among Christians’

Noting the "increasing incidents of outright discrimination against Christians", the Constitutional Conduct Group said the Union government is doing little to protect religious minorities.
Representative image. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: A group of civil servants have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the “increasing incidents of outright discrimination against Christians” in recent times, urging him to reassure the community that it will get equal and unbiased treatment from the executive and the law.

The open letter was signed by 93 former civil servants under the Constitutional Conduct Group, saying that though the principal allegation against the Christian community is of forcible conversion, its share in the position has remained more or less around 2.3% since the 1951 census.

Because of this accusation, the community has been “subjected to attacks – verbal, physical, and psychological, against both their persons and against their institutions”, they said. The letter adds, “It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves”.

Noting the contributions of Christians to the education and health sectors and social reform, the former civil servants said that India has been home to “Christianity since the first century CE, long before its introduction in many countries that are today predominantly Christian”.

“Yet Christians today, and in fact, all minorities, are being made to feel strangers in their own country, and guilty about following their own faiths, because of some vocal extremists operating with impunity and at times even with the tacit approval of political or law enforcement authorities,” they said.

The violence can be “stopped immediately” with just a word from the top leaders of the BJP, the Union government and state governments, they said. “As former civil servants, we also know that silence will beget only more violence. Christians, like all Indians now, need to be assured of equal and unbiased treatment by the executive and before the law. It is imperative that you, Mr Prime Minister, give them this reassurance,” they wrote.

The full letter and the list of signatories are reproduced below.

§

CCG OPEN LETTER TO THE HON’BLE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA HARASSMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

04 March 2023

Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji,

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked in the Central and State Governments during our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and share a commitment to the Constitution of India.

We write to you today because we are deeply perturbed by the continued harassment, through speech and criminal action, of minority groups in the country by persons associated with your government, your party, organisations connected to it, and by mischief makers from amongst the public. While we are concerned about the hate crimes and speeches against all minorities, we write to you today about the steadily increasing ugly words and actions against a small religious minority, the Christians. Our Constitution clearly spells out that all citizens, irrespective of religion, are equal and have equal rights, but we are compelled to protest to you against the increasing incidents of outright discrimination against Christians occurring in recent times.

Christians constitute but 2.3 per cent of India’s population, and this percentage has remained more or less the same since the census of 1951. Yet, in the minds of some, this minuscule number poses a threat to the 80% of the population that is Hindu! The principal allegation against Christians is one of forcible conversions, and because of this accusation, they have been subjected to attacks – verbal, physical, and psychological, against both their persons and against their institutions. It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves.

It is an acknowledged fact that the role of Christians towards building our nation has been immense. The participation and leadership of Christians in the civil services as well as in the armed forces stands testimony to the community’s national commitment.

This apart, Christians in India have been particularly active on three fronts, viz. education, health and social reform, carrying these to remote and inaccessible areas and to the most deprived sections, the Dalits and tribal peoples. The beneficiaries have been from all faiths. Values which have been identified with Christianity, such as discipline, sacrifice and service have been the hallmark of Christian institutions. During the recent pandemic more than one thousand Christian – run hospitals were readily offered up for the treatment of patients. Not a single Christian institution – whether education or health related, restricts its benefits to Christians alone. Thirty percent of India’s nurses are Christians.

Christians have consistently punched above their weight in every field. But today they are being accused of using these very institutions and services as instruments for conversion; and even of resorting to forcible conversion. One has to ask – if such large-scale conversions are happening, why has the percentage of Christians remained static over so many decades?

Notwithstanding this, in recent years the Christian community has been the victim of physical violence. It is troubling that violence against Christians in different parts of the country has persisted and has increased in recent years. Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy, for no fault of his except that he was closely working with the Adivasis, Dalits and other underprivileged people of Jharkhand, was virtually driven to his death by no less than the State. Churches and homes of tribal and Dalit Christians have been destroyed, graveyards vandalised, educational and health institutions have been attacked and prayer gatherings have been terrorised. These attacks have happened primarily in Chhattisgarh, Assam, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. According to the United Christian Forum, the attacks on Christians increased from 279 in 2020 to 505 in 2021 and to 511 in 2022 (up till October).

Some of these recent attacks have been particularly distressing. In August 2022, under the influence of Hindu extremist groups, more than a thousand tribal Christians were banished from their villages in Narayanpur and Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh because they refused to be converted to the Hindu faith. Again, on January 2, 2023, a mob of fifty people barged into a church in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district and vandalised it, attacking even the SP and other police officers who tried to control the trouble. Among the people arrested for this mayhem is a BJP leader. In January 2023, again, a group of forty goondas pledging allegiance to a Hindutva outfit, accused the teachers of a Catholic school travelling from Gujarat to Belagavi of trying to convert people to Christianity. And only a few days ago, at a ‘dharma sansad’ at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, a sadhu shrilly exhorted the audience to slaughter Muslims and Christians. Ignoring all this, persons spewing hatred against Christians have been appointed to high office, even to the judiciary!

Our country has been home to Christianity since the first century CE, long before its introduction in many countries that are today predominantly Christian. Yet Christians today, and in fact, all minorities, are being made to feel strangers in their own country, and guilty about following their own faiths, because of some vocal extremists operating with impunity and at times even with the tacit approval of political or law enforcement authorities.

It is the duty of the State to safeguard the secular character of our country, to protect every citizen, and ensure enjoyment of his or her fundamental rights, regardless of religion. But it is doing little to protect religious minorities. As Prime Minister of our country, and all of its people including Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities, and as a leading member of the BJP, we ask you to speak out against these outrageous acts, and to ensure that the police and other officials prevent such incidents from recurring. Christians, today, and, all other minorities, need to be reassured that they are no less citizens of India than their Hindu brethren.

Hate speech has serious consequences. And the arc is swinging visibly from anti-Muslim to anti-Christian, not in one gory riot but in a series of provocations like church vandalism, defiling of statues, beating up worshippers, bogey of conversions, and public calls for genocide from the nation’s capital.

These together with the various anti-conversion laws intimidate and create a climate of fear among Christians and marginalize them. This may not be the case in the north-east, with its well-organised Christian communities, but exhibits itself repeatedly in the rest of the country to achieve partisan political gains.

All violence can be stopped immediately with just a word from the top leaders of the BJP, the Union government and of each state government. As former civil servants, we also know that silence will beget only more violence. Christians, like all Indians now, need to be assured of equal and unbiased treatment by the executive and before the law. It is imperative that you, Mr Prime Minister, give them this reassurance.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE
Yours faithfully,
Constitutional Conduct Group (93 signatories, as below)

Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) , Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
Anand Arni IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Chandrashekar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
Sushant Baliga Engineering Services (Retd.), Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI
Rana Banerji RAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
T.K. Banerji IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Portugal
Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.), Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.), Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.), Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.), Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
F.T.R. Colaso, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
Anna Dani IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
Nitin Desai, Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Sweden
A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.), Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Italy
Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.), Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.), Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.), Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.), Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.), Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner
Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
Najeeb Jung IAS (Retd.), Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
Vinod C. Khanna IFS (Retd.), Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI
Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned), Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.), Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned), GoI
Malay Mishra IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Hungary
Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Myanmar
Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.), Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
G.K. Pillai IAS (Retd.), Former Home Secretary, GoI
Gurnihal Singh Pirzada IAS (Resigned), Former MD, Punjab State Electronic Development & Production Corporation, Govt. of Punjab
R. Poornalingam IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
Rajesh Prasad IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
R.M. Premkumar IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
S.Y. Quraishi IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Election Commissioner
T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.), Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
P.V. Ramesh IAS (Retd.), Former Addl. Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI
M.Y. Rao, IAS (Retd.)
Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.), Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.), Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.), Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
G.V. Venugopala Sarma IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Japan
Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.), Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia
Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Sujatha Singh IFS (Retd.), Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
A.K. Srivastava IAS (Retd.), Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal
Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.), Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.), Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
Ramani Venkatesan, IAS (Retd.), Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
Rudi Warjri IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

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