INDIA (ANS) — Recent reports from Andhra Pradesh of a draconian religious policing of foreign visitors to the state evokes frightening memories of the Sangh Parivar raj in New Delhi some years ago when similar action met with indignation and condemnation from national and international civil society.
Reports are that the Andhra Pradesh police and intelligence agencies, often accompanied by thugs of the Sangh Parivar, have been breaking into Christian prayer and social meetings where international guests are present. Several of such meetings have been reportedly broken up by police who say they will not permit the participation of foreigners, who are in India on a tourist visa,
This action is in violation of both the Indian Constitution and International protocol. It also discriminates specifically against the Indian Christian community as it prevents them from inviting their friends to their social and religious occasions and meeting.
It is clearly understood that the international visitors are not here on a missionary visa, which India does not give though thousands of Hindu priests routinely go abroad to preach in the West. Our guests do not preach, nor do they convert. They merely attend ceremonies as faithful Christians who do not lose their religious rights just because they are visitors in India.
The discrimination is patently only against Christians. Buddhists from Tibet, China, Japan and other countries come to Bodh Gaya and other cities and fully participate in religious and socio-political activities connected with their communities and their faith. Similarly, Sikhs citizens of the US and the UK, Pakistan and Afghanistan, come to Punjab for prayer and worship at gurudwaras. People of Indian origin, citizens of Britain and the United States of America, Europe and Hong Kong, routine come to India and fully participate in all religious and social political activities though they are foreign citizens.
These double standards would be contemptible and condemnable even if a Hindutva government imposed them. That these are happening in Andhra Pradesh where the government swears by secularism is a matter of great shame.
We hope the political leadership will ensure that the police will cease and desist from such activity which puts a black mark of shame on the democratic and constitutional edifice of secular India.
The All India Christian Council took out a massive procession in the port city of Vishakhapatnam [Vaizag] today, to protest the police high handedness. A Memorandum was presented to the Collector. Over 10,000 persons, including Christian and non-Christian civil society activists joined the state AICC leadership in the protest march.
Dr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council, Government of India Secretary General, All India Christian Council President, All India Catholic Union
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