India. A garden seeded with hate

Concerns about safeguarding minorities and their rights in India are rising following a series of violent attacks on members and institutions of a Christian community in Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh. When a young girl?s body was found dead in a Catholic Mission compound on 11 January, local groups associated with fundamentalist Hindu movements blamed the crime on the Church. Through inflammatory rhetoric, they instigated a series of attacks on Church personnel and premises even after the culprit was found and the Christian community absolved of any crime. For the first time in the history of the district, homes and property belonging mostly to tribal Christian converts were targeted and destroyed. Indian Jesuits, even if not directly involved in these incidents, are monitoring the situation very closely and with apprehension. Catholic sources suggest that the tragic death of the girl is being used to pursue an anti-minority agenda. Local human rights activists compare these methods with what happened in the neighbouring state of Gujarat in 2002. Mr Harsh Mander, Director of Action Aid India, denounced the ?manufacture of fear and hatred against this tiny minority? in an open letter. Emotionally referring to a slogan, ?Our India is a garden in which every religion flourishes?, displayed in the window of a tea stall, he indicated that at a time when several front organisations are engaged in mobilising and indoctrinating tribals, respect for religious diversity and tolerance are the only panacea. [HL40205]