After fresh sectarian mayhem, Christians met in Bangalore for dialogue with Hindu nationalists. Christian participants described the March 22 meeting as a way to build bridges to the nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). But Christian critics would rather see such bridges burned.
"What happened in Bangalore was a monologue by RSS, not a dialogue," says Joseph D'Souza, president of the All India Christian Council (AICC), which boycotted the talks. "There is no point talking to the RSS."
Some Christian leaders disagree, including B. K. Pramanik of the Bible Society of India and theologian Ken Gnanakan. They were among the 14 Christian leaders who expressed their concerns about treatment of religious minorities. The government's National Commission for Minorities (NCM) sponsored the meeting, the sixth in a series.
More than 800 people—mostly Muslims—have been killed in Gujarat state since February 27. This is India's worst round of sectarian violence in a decade. Scores of Christians have died at the hands of Hindu radicals in recent years.
The RSS is the ideological parent of Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party. K. S. Sudarshan, who heads the RSS, advised more than 100 theologians, pastors, and lay leaders who attended the meeting to "sever links with foreign churches [and] the Vatican, and stop mass conversions."
Gnanakan told Christianity Today, "We need not agree with all that the RSS stands for, but we have made a good beginning in at least talking to them. We have persuaded the RSS leadership to … send a message to grassroots-level workers not to disturb Christians and churches."
Pramanik said he gave Bibles to the Hindu participants. "I realize the position of minorities in India, but talks like these are always an opportunity to build bridges."
John Dayal of the AICC believes the NCM remains a government pawn by ignoring RSS complicity in violence.
"The National Commission for Minorities has lost its credibility," Dayal says. "It must be disbanded and then reconstituted with persons of credibility and courage who will remain loyal to their constitutional responsibilities."
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Previous Christianity Today coverage of the Gujarat riots includes:
Weblog: Human Rights Watch accuses Indian officials of role in Gujarat violenceGujarat officials cited in the death of hundreds of Muslims. (May 3, 2002)
Is the Worst Yet to Come?After 600 Indians die in last week's riots, Hindu temple plans may spur continued religious violence. (March 6, 2002)
Christianity Today articles on religious tensions in India include:
New Curriculum 'Tampering' with History, Indian Churches ProtestChristian leaders allege that a current education proposal promotes Hindu nationalism. (Dec. 12, 2001)
Law Could Curb Foreign Donations To Churches, Indian ChristiansWorry Stringent legislation is aimed at cutting off terrorist funding, but could hurt non-government organizations. (Nov. 9, 2001)
Christians Encouraged as 50,000 Dalits Leave HinduismLow-caste Hindus see conversion as their only escape from oppression. (October 11, 2001)
India's First Dalit Archbishop Holds 'No Grudge' Over Predecessor's AttackOnce "untouchable" Dalits make up bulk of country's Christians. (May, 11, 2001)
Plans to Resolve India's Interfaith Tensions Face Delays and AccusationsDid India's National Commission for Minorities plan a meeting to discredit Christians? (July 20, 2000)
Foes Claim BJP is Using Arms Training to Win Crucial Election in IndiaFears mount that reason for camps is to galvanize support for temple construction. (June 29, 2001)
Bomb Explosion During Mass Stirs Fear, Public Outcry in BangladeshSuspects linked to rash of attacks. (June 25, 2001)
India Election Results Rattle Ruling NationalistsHindu BJP "getting irrelevant day by day" say rivals. (June 13, 2001)
Despite Tensions, Indian Churches Agree to Talks With Hindu GroupsMainline churches will join talks, but other Christians say "partisan" meeting is dangerous. (Apr. 11, 2001)
India Relief Abuses RampantRadical Hindus hijack supplies in quake intervention. (Mar. 20, 2001)
In Orissa, You Must Ask the Government If You Want to Change ReligionChristian church leaders say they're trying to ignore the controversial law, but police aren't doing the same. (Mar. 12, 2001)
Churches Angry that Indian Census Ignores 14 Million Christian DalitsOnly Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist members of "untouchable" caste being counted. (Mar. 2, 2001)
India's Christians Face Continued ThreatsWe must preach what we believe in spite of Hindu pressure, says Operation Mobilization India leader. (Feb. 15, 2001)
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