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Modi's Message to Radicals
A Christmas Gift for India’s Struggling Christians

One of the outstanding questions after Narendra Modi’s election in India earlier this year was how inter-faith frictions would be handled in India’s sprawling patchwork society. A hopeful sign ahead of Christmas, via Reuters:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned his lawmakers for the first time to stop promoting controversial issues such as religious conversions and to focus on economic reforms as he struggles to pass legislation needed to kickstart the economy.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right wing Hindu group, called off a plan to convert thousands of Muslims to Hinduism this Christmas, which had threatened to stir fresh religious discord, after Modi’s intervention.

Christianity Today has an article explaining how the warning comes a few weeks after Christian leaders in Nagaland (a state with a large number of Christians) petitioned the Prime Minister for additional protections for religious minorities from the depredations of radical groups like the RSS. The article goes on to explain how groups like the RSS wield economic incentives to “re-convert” Muslims and Christians to Hinduism:

In the case of former Christians in Asroi, the Hindu radicals first warned them that they will lose government benefits designed to help poor people due to their religious identity. Next, they frighten these Christians with social expulsion from mainstream society if they remain as Christians. In order to ensure they didn’t violate India’s anti-forced conversion laws, the radicals likely told these reconverted Christians what to say in case their conversions were ever questioned.

None of this tells us whether Narendra Modi is a committed pluralist or not, but it’s almost besides the point to worry about what is truly in his heart right now. His priorities seem to be reform and economic development, and he seems determined to not let the religious politics of the more radical elements of his coalition derail this. And given both the scope of India’s problems and the size of Modi’s ambitions, is good enough news for now.

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  • Martin W. Lewis

    Nagaland does not merely have “a large number of Christians”; it is, in fact, overwhelming Christian (90%), and mostly Baptist. Nearby Mizoram is mostly Presbyterian. Before conversion, most Nagas and Mizos were animists, not Hindus.

  • Kieselguhr Kid

    Again, this weblog’s slavish devotion to Modi perplexes me. The RSS has stepped up its work in the tribal areas incredibly under Modi and has done so with the tacit and occasional explicit encouragement of the governing party. Modi has, on the other hand, curtailed some of the more obnoxious displays like the Christmas plan, and, good for him. But he’s also put a large number of anti-pluralists in positions of power: say you want to deport Muslims to Pakistan and apparently Modi will publicly rebuke you — then give you a cabinet position. Yes, he has given some glimmers of hope to the pluralists, and _Via Meadia_ is right to note them. He has also given us many many reasons to worry and _Via Meadia_ skates right by and doesn’t even mention them. I mean, is the BJP funding _TAI_ or something? What gives? Why is this column written like BJP propaganda?

    • Tom

      Modi offers economic progress as opposed to the socialist moribundity of the INC–unfortunately for all non-Hindus in India, the BJP’s freer economic policies, meant to strengthen India, go hand-in-hand with religious nationalism.
      TAI, I suspect, hopes that India will, to borrow a phrase, become the country too busy to hate.
      TAI is wrong–no one is ever really that busy.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        It would be nice if TAI were right. Of course I think Manmohan SIngh had even more to recommend him economically, coming in, than does Modi, so there’s no bets. But that said, TAI’s “journalism” in this issue has been deplorable. There have been endless stories, indeed in the source they cite here, about the RSS’s campaign to marginalize Christians, and not a peep here about them. Now one story that points the other way gets overhyped. It isn’t defensible and stuff like this has made Via Meadia a source I no longer value.

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