‘Why are Christians attacked, accused of conversion?’: Days after Modi advice, Union minister reaches out

‘Why are Christians attacked, accused of conversion?’: Days after Modi advice, Union minister reaches out

Addressing a Peace Rally in Kolkata, MoS, Minority Affairs, John Barla says need to highlight contributions of community to get “respect from government”

Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged BJP leaders to reach out to every section of society, especially the minorities, Union minister John Barla here Saturday strongly refuted allegations of conversion by Christian groups, and underlined the “immense contribution” of the community to the progress of the country.

On January 17, during the National Executive meeting of the BJP in Delhi, Modi had repeated that the BJP should reach out to groups such as Pasmandas, Bohras, Muslim professionals and educated Muslims “without electoral considerations”. “The call was mainly to build confidence among these communities,” a senior BJP leader said.

The Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs, Barla won the 2019 Lok Sabhaelections from Alipurduar in North Bengal, where a majority of the population is either Adivasi Christian like him or Muslim.

On Friday, addressing a Peace Rally in Kolkata, Barla listed the many contributions of the Christian community and said: “After so much contribution, there is no respect. Why are there allegations that we convert people? No, we don’t convert people.”

He added: “There are Christian schools in the remotest area of the country where there are no government institutes… Christians are not against the government. Businessmen and politicians send their children to Christian schools. Then why do we get beaten up? Why are Christians blamed for conversion?”

One reason, Barla said, was that Christians had failed to showcase their contribution to the nation. “That is why we have not got any respect from the government.” However, he added: “It is not a political issue. Christians only want peace and development.”

A senior BJP leader said Barla’s stand was not surprising given the support he needs of the Christian community to win. However, he said, “It is true that in the last few years, when we have emphasised more on a Hindutva agenda and tried to consolidate Hindu votes, it has not helped us mobilise votes against ruling parties in states (with high minority populations) like West Bengal, Kerala and some Northeastern states. So, we have to come out from that, which is what the PM said, and concentrate more on minority communities.”

Barla mentioned health centres, old age homes, educational institutions set up by Christian groups, and said that a number of personalities, from Mahatma Gandhi to film star Shah Rukh Khan, had studied at such institutions.

“From the time I became a minister, as the minority minister, as a Christian, I thought, ‘What is our contribution to the country? What have we given and what have we got in return, both before and after Independence? What respect did we get for our contribution?’…”

Barla also mentioned the recent attacks on Christians in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, in connection with alleged religious conversions. While at least one BJP leader has been arrested for the violence, Barla said the party was not involved and the violence was between two groups of tribals.

Paritosh Canning, the president of the Bengal Christian Council and Bishop of Calcutta, Church of North India, said, “Our objective is to bring all Christians of West Bengal on a single platform. We also want to highlight the contribution of other minorities — Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc — to build the country, state and society.”

Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said, “The BJP has realised that the acceptance of its Hindutva politics is decreasing. Now, they are trying win over the minorities. But the minorities know what the BJP is and what it has done in the past. All they are doing is nothing but drama.”

TMC MP Shukhendu Shekhar Roy said, “Because of the anti-people economic policies of the BJP, the gap between the rich and poor is increasing. The BJP is losing its acceptance day by day. Now, they are shedding crocodile tears for minorities.”

source : https://indianexpress.com/article/political-pulse/christians-attacked-accused-of-conversion-modi-advice-union-minister-john-barla-8396398/

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