The Indian Prime Minister on a foreign soil telling the world that he was ashamed of the violence in India against Christians was a shameful sight. He was responding to the European Union allegation that his government failed to prevent what it called a ?massacre of Christians? in Orissa and Karnataka.
This atrocious allegation was reportedly made during the India-EU summit at Marseille. The issue was taken up strongly with Dr Singh by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also head of the European Council and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. There was also a report that the US President George W. Bush had asked the Prime Minister of India to give an assurance to the EU on the subject. In any case it was incumbent on the part of the Prime Minister to clarify the situation and defend the country.
In the first place it is not the business of the US or EU to protect the Christians in India. The Christians are Indian citizens and they have always been first Indians and only then Christians. This country will not allow any violence in the name of religion and Hindus have always stood in the forefront protecting legitimate Christian rights. In these columns we have reiterated often that the protection of minorities and the oneness of the people of this country are at the core of Indian values we uphold.
There are some isolated, totally localised, incidents of violence in one or two areas as a result of some social schism developed over a period of time. The state governments there have done everything in their capacity to restore order and reassure the affected people. Here the affected, the victims have no religion, they belong to all communities, though the provocation came entirely from the foreign funded evangelical groups. That is why, established Church denominations have dissociated from the evangelists and condemned conversion by force and allurement. (On the front page we are carrying a report on the successful Hindu-Christian dialogue held last week in Kerala). This being the situation, the EU allegation against India was both uncalled for and preposterous. In fact Dr. Singh had every right to protest. Dr Singh could have objected to the blatant lie being propounded by the EU. For, there was not a single instance of ?massacre? of Christians in India. Even riots are rare involving Christians and Hindus. Even if we take the number of persons killed in the recent incidents, including Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and his three Ashram mates, three policemen and four others killed in police firing and violence the total is less than ten and that cannot be qualified as massacre. There were some cases of arson and pillage in mob fury. But they are nothing compared to the kind of anti-Muslim violence witnessed in France, UK and other EU countries a few years ago. There is no need for the EU to communalise the issue or take up the protection of Christians as their special commitment. If secularism as Sarkozy explained is the issue they should have been equally concerned about the lives of Hindus lost in terrorist violence. And the discrimination against the Sikhs in France is a major issue agitating every Indian mind. Manmohan Singh should have taken it up at the EU.
No other Prime Minister of India would have tolerated such interference in the internal affairs of the country. Some lobbyists have started saying that India'seffort to emerge a front runner of globalisation has suffered a setback because of the Kandhamal incidents. These people talk as if globalisation is Christianisation.
In his effort to be more secular than Indian Dr Manmohan Singh has let down the country. And foreign soil is no place for the Prime Minister to speak about a domestic issue on which the national opinion is hugely divided. Perhaps this is the difference between an elected political Prime Minister and a selected one. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee or any other Prime Minister of India would not have entertained such indiscretion.