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Religious minorities criticize Indian anti-corruption campaign

September 16, 2011

BANGALORE, India

While churches in India are generally endorsing the campaign against government corruption led by activist Anna Hazare, they have joined Muslim and secular activists in expressing concern over whether political opponents of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress party are trying to politicize the protests.

“We are concerned about rampant corruption and support the protest against it. At the same time, we are also wary of Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) elements trying to exploit the campaign for political gains,” the Rev. Roger Gaikwad, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), told ENInews on Aug. 24.

The NCCI had issued a statement supporting the fast that Hazare begun on Aug. 16 in New Delhi and called for reform on the issue of corruption. Hazare’s team has said it is not committed to any ideology or group that has come out to support the campaign.

However, Catholic Father Pius Marandi, principal of St. Joseph’s School in Dumka in eastern Jharkhand state, told ENInews that his office was ransacked and classes disturbed on Aug. 18 by the student wing of the Hindu nationalist BJP, India’s principal opposition party, for refusing to heed their call to shut down the school and join the protest.

“We are shocked to hear that Christian institutions have been attacked,” said Gaikwad.

Hazare had stunned secular-minded people when he chanted “Vande Mataram” ("Hail to Thee, Mother"), a slogan associated with Hindu nationalists, when he greeted crowds on Aug. 19.

The general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the Rev. Richard Howell, told ENInews that “we are all against corruption. But the kind of slogans being raised smacks of political infiltration into the campaign.” The Roman Catholic bishop of Delhi, Vincent Concessao, said he decided not to continue joining the protests.

Syed Ahmed Bukhari, a prominent Muslim cleric who leads the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, questioned why concerns of religious minorities are being excluded from the campaign. He said that Hindu fundamentalism is “an equal threat like corruption” in India. But Hazare and his team, he said, is ignoring the issue.

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