The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) has expressed serious concern at reported threats to the life of John Dayal, the national convenor of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights. In a statement issued in New Delhi on August 9, the secretary general of the CBCI, Oswald Gracias, said Dayal is being deliberately targeted by some because of his role in raising public awareness of attacks against Christian in India. Gracias said Dayal is apparently seen as a threat by those who want to ignore the rights of minorities in the country and wish to silence his campaign.Dayal started voicing the concerns of the Christian community in 1997 and regularly exposed the systematic hate campaign against Christians by Hindu fundamentalists. In May, Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) spokesman P. Venkaiah Naidu accused Dayal of "using the cover of a religious organization to carry on his strident tirade against the BJP and the government." In a statement at a press conference, Naidu told Dayal to cease his "political" activities.Minorities Commission member John Joseph also accused Dayal of favoring political parties and projecting the government in a bad light. The former president of the CBCI, the late Catholic archbishop Alan de Lastic, had also defended Dayal's role as spokesman for the Christian community before he died in a car accident on June 21 in Poland. In a letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, de Lastic said Dayal was working for the protection of human rights.Earlier, in a letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dayal asked for protection, saying he feared for his life and property because of his role in mobilizing public opinion against attacks on Christians."I have been politically targeted, among others, by the spokesman of the Bharatiya Janatha Party and member of the National Commission for Minorities, John Joseph," Dayal wrote. "This campaign against me is to silence my voice as a human rights activist and spokesman and to alienate me from my community and secular society."Dayal added that he was accused of treason, terrorism and anti-national activity, and of procuring foreign funds. The NHRC has ordered the government to provide a bodyguard for Dayal.In July, the NHRC asked the Home Ministry and all states and union territories to send reports on measures taken by them to prevent attacks against Christians. The NHRC believes this is necessary to preserve the "secular credentials of the nation and fulfil the promise of fraternity and common brotherhood envisaged in our constitution." But the Home Ministry has not yet sent any reports.The Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) denies the involvement of any Hindu organization in anti-Christian attacks. RSS Joint General-Secretary Madan Das said church leaders backed by some of the media are wrongly accusing the RSS and other Hindu organizations of atrocities against the Christians."The recent spate of false allegations have exhausted our patience, particularly because of the far-reaching impact of such false and motivated allegations on the national psyche and on the world opinion about us," Das said. The RSS has threatened to sue publications carrying "false and defamatory" news against it or any of its allied organizations in the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu organizations).

Copyright © Compass Direct News ServiceThe United Christian Forum for Human Rights Web site has several articles by Dayal and more information about the organization.Earlier articles about religious tensions in India include:Plans to Resolve India's Interfaith Tensions Face Delays and Accusations | Did India's National Commission for Minorities plan a meeting to discredit Christians? (July 20, 2000) India's First Dalit Archbishop Holds 'No Grudge' Over Predecessor's Attack | Once "untouchable" Dalits make up bulk of country's Christians. (May 11, 2000) India's Christians Resist Move to Register Conversions | State's legislation unconstitutional, says leaders. (May 2, 2000) Build Bridges, but Fight Fanaticism, India's Churches Told | National Council of churches in India will work against strengthening of caste system. (Mar. 9, 2000)