Observations, based on inputs, media reports & eye-witness accounts from Ground Zero – Srinagar, Jammu, Jalandhar, Delhi & other places – which can’t be disclosed.
Church, Christians & Human Rights NGOs – Please Act & Respond as at the End of the Email
At the outset, to prevent misrepresentation, one would like to state that we respect Islam, as also every religion and hold Muslims in high esteem. These observations relate only to communalists, who in the name of religion are causing religious discordamong communities.The issue clearly is one of basic human rights violations and erosion of Constitutional freedoms of citizens, amongst whom are included – Indian Christians and Kashmiri Christians in particular. A terrorist/fanatic is neither a Hindu, Muslim, Christian nor of any faith, the person claims to represent. Hence, we would equally condemn communalism coming from any one – whatever the religion. The persecution, though clearly is anti-Christian, we look at it from the universal human rights, religious liberty and Constitutional guarantees point of view.
In recent times, there has been a rise, in fundamentalism among those claiming to be Muslims, in India too. While, most have so far focussed on Hindutva terror – SCANT, if NO attention has been paid to extremists, who claim to be followers of other religions. Today, after decades of standing-up for our Muslim fellow-citizens’ human and minority rights, we get the feeling that anyone who speaks of Muslim extremism or Islamic terrorism is branded Islamophobic and brow beaten, since it is seen to be politically incorrect.
Hence, no one is willing to stand up to abuses on Christians from fanatics who claim to be Muslim – neither the Muslim leadership(whom we have supported), civil society (who is with us against others), government (which gives us the impression of being ineffective) and sadly, even the Christian churches & NGOs, who need to do more. Perhaps, these groups and others can all claim, that they were unaware, but not anymore – not after this report. If they don’t act, Christians at least in Kashmir, will soon be extinct and we will be accountable first to the LORD and then to our future generations – who face a bleak future in the country.
At grave risk of the possible consequences, I present this report, only because many lives are at risk. Every life is a human being and I believe they are as blue-blooded Humans, Indians or Christians, as I am. This also poses a serious threat to secularism, national integrity and world peace.
These are impressions gathered by Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Mumbai-based activist community NGO –The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum (CSF)– who was in J & K between 3-7, February, 2012, meeting victims and in touch with Kashmiris who fled to other parts of India, besides prominent civil society representatives and concerned community leaders. Acknowledgements:
I gratefully thank these and many others, whom I could speak get to express solidarity with the Kashmiri Christians in their cause. Many of them, as part of civil society, were present at the press conference held at the Jammu Press Club on 6 February, 2012:
Adv. Jyoti Agarwal, Supreme Court of India; Adv. Iftikhar Bazmi (Poonch), India Rep, ICRD, Washington DC; Adv. Salathia, President, Jammu Bar Association; Adv. Monish Chopra, J & K High Court; Dr. Agnishekhar, Convenor, Panun Kashmir; Mr. S. M. Gill, Ex-MLC, Govt of J & K; Mr. H. S. Rana & Other Senior Sikh Representatives; Mr. Nicodemus, president, J & K Christian United Federation; Mr. Lal Gill, president, J & K Catholic Sabha and a couple of others, who wish to remain anonymous guardian angels.
The information provided in the report of the fact-finding team led by Dr. HT Sangliana and comprising Dr. John Dayal, Dr. Richard Howell, Adv. Rev. PJ Marcose and Rev. Vijayesh Lal helped. Special mention must also be made of the noteworthy services rendered to the Kashmiri Christians by Dr. Sajan K. George (GCIC) and Feastus Sotra, vice-chairman, All J & K Christian United Federation, especially to get Rev. Khanna out.
It all started with an SOS – we sent out to Christendom – which reacted with the predictable prayers and expressions of helplessness; and of course a lot many media / internet statements. But weeks after the fatwa (edict) against Christian clergymen – Rev. CM Khanna and Rev. Gayur Massih, Church of North India pastors; Fr. Jim Borst, a Dutch Catholic priest; neo-converts and their families on 19th January, 2012. Nothing changed. It became worse.
But the victims got to know of The CSF in the distant land and over the week, I got frantic calls – too many of them – desperately calling for help. The callers said that if the church or Christians did nothing, the neo converts would be forced to revert or face brutal consequences… They told me that they did not know whom to speak to – for none was listening. I was angry at the fact that NOTHING concrete was being done, other than pontificating.I decided to go and at least express solidarity and pray with our persecuted sisters and brothers near the border.
There was little else that I could do, since not being a church or an MNC Christian NGO, just an advocacy forum with limited resources. But, even worse, was that, I am facing 4 police complaints for cautioning the community, after Rev. Khanna’s CD episode, to keep a check on video recordings of baptisms and marriages, which could find their way to YouTube and be misused. And also since The CSF issued an advisory that churches keep their records right, against harassment from Trojans – many times from among our own.
I prayed about it and felt a strong calling to go. I was afraid in my spirit, that if I did not do so, the Lord would find somebody else. So, having no option, I decided to go, assured that the Lord wanted me to do it and HE would be with me all the way. And I am glad I did, bringing you this update on harsh reality.
Nothing has still changed. But, IF you act, I believe, it will.
Right Here in India – a Few Hundred Christians Persecuted & Threatened to be Killed…
as in Fanatical Islamic or Communist Countries
Churches, Christians and Civil Society have not seen or heard what I have. Here it is, with tears in my eyes, an appeal in my mouth and prayers in my heart for the governments, denominations and human rights NGOs – who act and reach out to the Kashmiri Christians and others being persecuted there.
• Christians’ children die, wives separated to be given to others and property taken.
• Christian families are near-death because of attacks and total boycott, forsaken by all.
• Christians living worse than refugees, hounded by the police-fundamentalists combine.
• Christians must revert or leave Kashmir. Else face the consequences that few want to.
• Christian institutions/NGOs fear being taken over and the community becomes extinct.
• Churches or Christians can do nothing but become martyrs for they cannot take up arms, even in self-defence, unless the governments or international human rights groups act.
I have used initials and blurred photographs of the below real Christians, for security reasons, there being danger to their lives and grave consequences for their families, relatives and friends. We are an Easter people and while, we are sad that so many of our Christians are being martyred for the faith, let me give you the hope that I witnessed in J & K – I saw a wholly local Kashmiri indigenized church community, like the early Christians of Corinth, Macedonia, Thessalonia… praising the Lord and giving thanks to God, even in their persecution. Unfortunately, the only thing they lack is: their better-off sisters and brothers supporting them – not just financially, but also spiritually and expressing solidarity with them.
Here is what some of the victims have to say:
In spite of the severe persecution, we will not let our Saviour down. He died for us, we are happy to die for Him and when these fundamentalists kill us, we know we will be united with the one true living God for all eternity. We will fight back, but at most they can torture us to death, many of which have gone unreported, but our soul will always belong to Jesus – you go back and tell the world this. – Mr. S, who fears his child is killed
It is only now that the church is waking-up to the harsh reality, but it has been there since 2003, when some of our own and others with vested interests in 2003 put out news in the media – The Cross in Kashmir. Ever since then, most of the Kashmiri media have demonized Christians, as a community of wine, wealth and women. After the Hindus and Sikhs, it is now the turn of Christians to be hounded. – Mr. P, Christian of Kashmiri pandit origin
The Islamic fanatics have stooped to any extent to assassinate our character, including that of myself and my daughter. They have got published in the mass media reports that we have seduced and lured Muslim boys, with money and a loose moral lifestyle. They said we recorded them in compromising positions and blackmailed them. We even arranged passports and arms for them. I have a nervous breakdown, with my family all scattered. – Mrs. K, pastor’s wife
We had to leave our house in the middle of the night, with our two small children, who keep asking us even as of today, when will they go to school, like other children. The fanatic Maulvis could enter our house at will and many times, even prompted by the police to create trouble, assuring them that they would be protected and we would be arrested. We are living with friends, changing places, every few days, as we have been threatened to be killed. – Rev. M and wife
Persecution is to be expected in a 100% Muslim place, where we have had even small Christian children being beaten up and nothing can be done. Apart from police raids in the middle of the night, we and visitors to our home are under constant surveillance. Muslims, who help Christians are also not spared and forced to fall in line. There is a lull because of the pressure, that you guys brought, but you cannot expect it to last for long. There are already reports of retaliation. Maulvis are asking Muslims to get their children out of Christian institutions. – Rev. D, pastor for 20 years
Christian institutions, including ours have been raided by the police and stoned, when nothing was found. If there is a Kashmiri Pundit landlord, then chances are there of some sympathy, or else, even homes on rent are denied to Christians, who are mocked by almost all in the valley. Many of those in government service tell us it is better for us to become Muslim and when we refuse, they let the Maulvis on to us. In fact, we have had cases of even our children being beaten up. We and those who visit us are being constantly watched. – Rev. C and wife
I had to run away leaving my house, with nothing other than, what I had on me. I asked my wife to go to her house with our just born baby. Both the mother and the child are seriously ill and could die. My wife’s family tells her they married her to a Muslim, not a Kafir (infidel), so she has no place there either. There is no way to contact her, as I have reached miles away. If I get back, I fear I will be burnt alive. That is the punishment for leaving Islam. – Mr. B, a neo-convert on the run
We are scared. We have lost everything. We cannot come out into the open or they will finish our families and relatives. We are among the 100 odd Christian families, who have been identified to be completely annihilated. It’s not just the fanatics who are hounding us, it’s the police and government officials, who are being used to terrorize us, because we are now just a few left in Kashmir and they want to make it an Islamic – Taliban type state. – Mr. M, Christian youth wanted by police
Even though Christians in government service are due promotions and honours, our exemplary service is not recognized. Medals and other benefits are not given to us and we are discriminated against. It goes without saying that being Muslim helps and in fact, even Hindus or Sikhs are a sizeable number and speak for their officers. We have no one and so get left behind, despite merit to serve under others. – Mr. T, senior government officer
What a great witness, we have given to those of other religions that despite such severe persecution, we did not give up our faith. Just seeing what we were going through, many among the police, lawyers and other faith believers asked us for Bibles, besides wanting to know more about Christianity. They wanted to know about the God that we were prepared to die for. – Rev. R, a pastor summoned by the Islamic court
They are after our NGOs, schools and institutions, which serve 100% non-Christians and want to control them. As of now, most Christians have fled Kashmir valley, except for the few who are running these outfits. The local Kashmiri Catholics are only about 50, while the remaining couple of hundred odd Christians are imports, who are taking care of our interests. If the churches and Christians don’t act, we will have to forego the centuries of work done by missionaries in this part of the country. – Mr. P, Catholic involved with evangelization
Our team has experienced directly the results of the fatwa (Islamic ruling) because of one of those three was heading up the work that we’re involved in. The Christian ministry has shut down in Kashmir. What’s more, there’s no safe place for the believers who remain. “This was only the only one functioning above ground church. He’s been hounded from the state. Words of Hope will continue broadcasting the Gospel daily to the region. – David Bast of Words of Hope
Torture, Hunger, Sickness, Homeless, Persecution…
Rev. CM Khanna, Fr. Jim Borst and other named missionaries are faces that have come to be known because of the fatwa against them. Rev. Khanna’s wife and daughter had their character assasinated, though the family bravely stood their ground. Mrs. Khanna was quite clear, when it came to Jesus, there would no compromises. In the middle of the night she had flee J & K, where she moved from house to house, until she has reached a place, where she is relatively safe, though Rev. Khanna continues to be a marked man for the Lord. But there are many faceless and nameless Christians, in more severe danger, bearing the brunt of Islamic fanaticism, right in the Kashmir valley or living worse than refugees in Delhi, Jammu, Jalandhar and other parts of India – where we have managed to get some of them placed. There are many more, who are silently bearing the persecution or recanted because the torture is too much to bear.
Here is a little of what Kashmiri Christians are facing:
After the verdict that non-Muslims were unwelcome in the Kashmir valley, every group of Christians began to feel the pressure to leave. Thereafter, Friday gatherings at all mosques and word-of-mouth was clear – if one wanted to stay in Kashmir, it would have to be at the benevolence of the 100% Muslim majority. It seemed to be timed to coincide with the severe frost-biting winter that has set in. The Kashmiri Christians had little choice, like the Kashmiri Pandits – either die or run away, leaving behind all their possessions. Most did the latter, if nothing else in the hope that they would be alive.
1. Burnt with live coals and left to die:To give just one instance of what I was told of alleged extreme torture and mysterious deaths: A neo-convert was reportedly asked to recant and revert to Islam or face the wrath of the villagers. I was told this happened in Karipura of the Budgam district of J & K, which he refused to do. He was then surrounded by the villagers and live burning coals were poured on to him and his scalp and hair was totally burnt. After he was nearly dead, his family was given the responsibility to get him back to Islam, though he was hardly alive. Nobody knows whether he is alive or his whereabouts. Another injured person was warned he would be cut to pieces.
2. Homeless in the snow, with no money: Another instance was that of a believer’s house that was mysteriously burnt. In the case of yet another persecuted young believer, he had spent his lifetime building his house, which is almost ready. Now the villagers and his family have taken over his property and refuse to let him return. They threaten him that he will be killed, if he returns. He could not leave his family behind, so he left with them and is living off loans, as he has no source of income and staying in a rented room, at a high price. I have seen cases of many families and friends staying in one room too.
3. No freedom of religion or right to choose: There is no religious liberty in Kashmir, with fundamentalist Muslims distributing pamphlets right inside churches, while services are on. None can say anything against either this, nor can Christians prevent a Muslim coming into one’s house to preach or propagate Islam, which happens regularly. One is left with no choice – either live as a Muslim or as a Kafir (infidel), which has its serious consequences, leading most Christian believers to leave the Kashmir valley. Those who for some reason can’t, should either recant as reportedly 150 Christians have done or are destined to die a martyr’s death.
4. Brutally injured, with suffering wives and children: Most of the neo-converts are physically and mentally tortured by the fundamentalists, their neighbours and relatives too. They are denied food and their belongings are taken away from them and given to others. Even their wives and children are not safe from the fanatics. The danger ranges from the wives being given to another, to children not being able to go to school. The old parents and senior elders emotionally blackmail them, compelling them to revert, as they all will face the consequences. The future of many a child lies in ruins, even as they starve and face death and sickness.
5. Maulvi Committees and Special Investigation Teams: Terrorizing the villagers are pairs of young religious zealots, who go door to door and force families to listen to their version of Islam and they claim to have the sanction of the Maulvis (Muslim clerics) Committee to revive the faith. There is also a government appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is being abused to violate human rights, by threatening and putting up false cases against the converts. The SIT calls these converts to the police station, under the guise of an enquiry and exposes their identity to the fundamentalists, who then are free to impart any punishment, they deem fit.
6. Fanatics claim Police, Judiciary and Government with them: As the mobs move from house to house in search of the converts, they are bold enough to proclaim that no one will be able to save the Christian converts, as all the authorities were with them and it was useless resisting. These fanatics forcibly get into the Christian homes and start teaching Islam, specifying the consequences of being a Kafir (infidel), as per “Hadees” (tradition) and leaving with a warning to return the next day, until the converts revert to back or their patience runs out and they issue a fatwa against the converts, their family and relatives. The fundamentalists boldly claim that the police or government officers could be feeling like they are doing their religious duty in helping target the Christian community. Many feel they could be labeled as police informers or militants and be killed in false encounters.
7. Socio-Economic boycott leaves the Christians impoverished: The fundamentalists have either destroyed the means of livelihood of most Kashmiri Christians or boycotted them, asking them to go to the church for assistance. The churches / NGOs for fear of being harassed and targeted have stopped providing relief. Many a small business run by Kashmiri Christians has had to close down. Most Christians who have fled Kashmir have nothing to fall back on, as they are aliens in their own land. Most of them do not have legal documents, as they took flight under persecuting circumstances and are now living at the mercy of friends and fellow-Christians outside. These guardian angels too have limited resources and are not able to support them much longer. There has been no co-ordinated relief from the mainline churches either.
8. Demonizing and profiling Christians to religiously cleanse them: The entire community is painted as anti-social, whose family, possessions and institutions must be attacked and taken over, as Christians in Kashmir are a danger to the Islamic theocratic nation (Azad Kashmir), proposed in the valley and to be extended to the whole J & K state. The Christians are portrayed as a drunkards, prostitutes, pork-eaters, drug addicts etc. and hence a danger to the Muslim faith. According to the Islamic fundamentalists – There is no solution other than to drive them out and keep them out of the state. Their institutions and NGOs are a pretext to lure and convert Muslims and therefore must either be taken over or be operated under Muslim management and prescribed Islamic prayers.
9. Islamic finance pouring in and being used to finance the war on Christians: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and his Ulema majlis have called for the setting up Baitul Malls (Welfare Funds) to support those who revert and also others. Some of the beneficiaries of this largesse, who have otherwise no money and availed of Christian charity, are now reporting a lavish lifestyle and those who did not have even bicycles are now moving around in cars. But, the Kashmiri Christians fear that these Baitul Mall funds could be misused to target Christians, not just in India, but be abused to receive and route money to support pogroms against Christians and other faiths, even abroad. There are some groups, who have urged the Muslim clergy and leaders to contribute from their personal resources, as they have huge assets and not tap the common Muslim, who will follow, once a beginning is made.
10. Danger of extremists and anti-national forces jumping on the bandwagon: There are a number of militants, who are suspected to be taking advantage of the situation. It helps them to project the happenings in J & K as if Islam or Muslims are in danger from the Christians in Kashmir, to the Arab and Islamic world – where fundamentalists are on the rise. There is also a possibility of misguided or desperate Kashmiri Christian youth taking to arms, either in self-defence or to protect one’s honour and family respect. J & K’s proximity to Pakistan poses a threat that the country across the border, could use the issue to stir in Indian internal strife and communal disharmony. Muslims in other parts of India share cordial relations with Christians.
11. Many districts are affected by persecution, where Christians are hounded out: The gross violation of human rights and religious cleansing is reportedly widespread and spreading, throughout the state. Almost all districts of Kashmir are affected, notably – Phulwama, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Baramullah, Budgaum, Kupwara, Kangan, Bandipora etc. And the communal flames are spreading towards the region of Jammu, as Ladhak, which is the third part of J & K is almost inaccessible and has very hostile sub-zero conditions. The area is inhabited largely by Buddhists, who have at times also taken-up issue with the Christians, especially in the Leh region, where NGOs were prevented from working.
12. Fanatics claim as many as 20,000 Muslims converted to Christianity since 1990:
A north Kashmir religious Madrassa is reportedly working on 115 Kashmiri Christian converts to bring them back to Islamic fold and has already brought back 150 converts over the past some few months. The Madrassa was collecting details and is hopeful of catching all converts and persuading them to revert to Islam. About 15 Christian groups have also been identified and being targeted. The fundamentalists are not happy with the Muslim societal response – ritual press statements, street protests, in-house meetings, seminars and routine condemnations. They want more than beyond asking for expulsion of clergy – priests and pastors. Christian presence is a threat to Muslims and not desirable.
Fundamentalists Target Christians in Kashmir
Christians and secular-minded citizens are alarmed at reports emanating from Kashmir, in the aftermath of what is being called a fatwa, reportedly by the “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet” against Christian clergy – Rev. CM Khanna, Rev. Gayoor Massih and Father Jim Borst, Catholic Mill Hill Missionary, besides other Christians and their families. One does not know of the state of those arrested were identified as Ghulam Hassan Dar and Abdul Hamid Sofi from Khag Budgam, and Feroz Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Mir and Mohammad Ashraf Wani from Bandipora.
In danger are the lives and property of dozens of Christians, who have fled the Kashmir valley and are living as refugees in Jammu and other parts of the country. At risk are also the institutions – educational and social service agencies – and the work these do, irrespective of any distinctions. But most important, is the impending danger of the annihilation of Christians and the community’s presence in the Kashmir valley, which is centuries’ old. Even as many neo-converts are fleeing the hostile neighbour, local communalists, fundamentalist courts, extremists/terrorists, police and local administration, seemingly paralyzed judicial system, etc.
Some identified Christian groups on the watch list:
Campus Crusade for Christ – south Kashmir.
Frontiers – Gujjar belts in Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan.
German Town Baptist Church – villages of Pattan, Tangmarg, Beerwah and Sangrama
Operation Gape – working with surrendered and released militants
Assemblies of God – villages around Budgam, Chrar, Pakharpora and Yousmarg
Gospel for Asia – villages of Baramullah, Kupwara and Bandipora districts
Al Bashar Mission, The Goodway, Agape Kashmir, Call of Hope and Overseas Social Service, Indian Pentecostal Church of God, Roman Catholic Missionaries and National Missionary Intelligence are other evangelist groups reportedly operating in Kashmir.
The moot question is – To whom does the Kashmir Valley Christian go to for survival?
Chilling reports of Christians fleeing & reduced to less than half
We express our collective shock and serious concern at the concerted hate campaign against Christians in the Kashmir valley. The union and state government are urged to act immediately to counter the danger from fundamentalists and prevent total annihilation of Christians in the valley. Reports received by The CSF from the Kashmir valley indicate that a large number of Christians are fleeing their houses, fearing danger of en mass killings and are now less than half in number.
Sections of the Kashmir mass media have aggravated the situation, with irresponsible coverage of accounts of reverts, stating that they were asked to even drink swine’s blood – which is strongly refuted and denied, as allegations without an iota of proof and mischievous, with the intention to create a divide in society on communal lines.
It is reported that false charges, are being repeated ad-nasuem against “unknown non-subject” persons and Kashmiri Christians framed, which is enough for fundamentalists to unleash a reign of mass terror, with none to help. Even worse are reports of raids being conducted on houses of Christians or those who are believed converted and their families being threatened with dire consequences and a socio-economic boycott in place. Thus starving the Christians, severely compounded with a freezing winter, and leaving them with no refuge, but to fall sick and die. Most of the 400 odd Christians living in the valley now face the same persecution that Kashmiri Pandits and others faced in 1990s, when they were forcibly exiled from the Kashmir valley en mass.
23 year ago: 19, January, 1990 – Pundits & Christians of Pundit Origin hounded
The persecution of Christians started after the “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet”, headed by Kashmiri Grand Mufti, (head cleric) Bashir-ud-din Ahmad’s verdict demanding the punishment and expulsion of missionaries, besides ordering a take-over of Christian schools, where Islamic studies should be taught and stating that there would be no more baptisms in the valley of Kashmir. It served as a signal to any one and every one interested to target the miniscule Christian micro-minorities, who now number less than a few hundred, trapped with their institutions and NGOs, under threat.
The fatwa date coincided with what is termed as Holocaust Day by the Kashmiri Pandits and Christians of Kashmiri Pandit origin, who on 19 January 1990, over 23 years ago, had to flee their homes. This year on the same date, the “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet” also reportedly launched a public hate diatribe against Christians through some mosques, mass media and more effectively word of mouth. The Christians fear what happened to the Kashmiri Pundits and Christians of Kashmiri Pundit origin will happen to them. Christians too are being forced out of their homes, men are beaten-up, women have their rights violated, property either taken over – all because they profess a different faith, from the one professed by the vast majority.
Christians want to return to their homes and resume their lives. Alas – this is a doomed hope. The ones, who want to dare go back, fear instant torture and death. It has been made clear to them that they are no longer welcome to Kashmir and can do so at their own risk. A few ready to go back, cannot because their homes are forcibly occupied, their families set-up against them, means of livelihood destroyed, etc. And in many cases – in what must count as the greatest tragedy – the exiles find that their neighbors had profited from their absence and actively opposed their return.
This is exactly what is happening to the 200 odd Christians in the Kashmir valley
Despite persecution, it was estimated that there were over 400 Christians left in the valley, but sources say that as of date – about half the number have fled, leaving the remaining half to fend for themselves. One cannot blame those who have left, as torture is imminent – where you either recant or die. For those left behind or living underground, it is less an issue of religious liberty or freedom of faith. It is more about preparing to be martyred for their belief in the Lord Jesus.
It is mobocracy. It is theocracy in a secular democracy. We are told, being J & K, the situation is even more complex – even if one wants to, little can be done. A feeling is gaining ground that one has no option but leave them to their fate – to suffer or die. The issue is should we sacrifice them? Or rather can we? For we could be next?
Ground Zero realities: Christian Victims – Clergy & Others
It seems the complete annihilation of Christians at least from the Kashmir valley, is a stark harsh reality – Religious Cleansing?
1. False cases, frenzy zealots & rumours
There is always the eminent danger of even more serious charges, like sedition, crimes against the nation… being added to cover their guilt. The fundamentalists are given a free hand and operate with impunity targeting Christians individually, if they don’t revert to Islam. The “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet” has also requested the Sr. Superintendent of Police in Srinagar to ensure that a list of Muslims baptized by Rev. CM Khanna reaches it, as soon as possible.
Thousands of CDs of Rev. Khanna’s Baptism programme were distributed in the locality and hate speech was reportedly heard through the mosques. The mass media put out stories of those who recanted, which has added fuel to the fire.
2. Hostile legal and official state machinery
We are given to understand that The Bar Association and judicial system allegedly also did not live up to expectations. It was reported that a notice urged lawyers to boycott Rev. CM Khanna and mentioned, if any one even assisted him, action would be taken and they would themselves be responsible for the “consequences”. Some members of the local Bar, reportedly disturbed the proceedings of the court. It was also reported that some lawyers also opposed bail, shouting that if bail is given, there will be strike by advocates and Kashmir will be closed. There was also seemingly no local official, no lawyer, no notary, no typist, no stationary, no photocopying machines etc. available to the missionaries & converts.
3. Christian schools and institutions targeted
The Tyndel Biscoe School has just 4 Christian students out of over 7,000 including the girls’ wing. The Burn House Catholic School, has 3 students out of over 2,000 and the same is true of also the faculty, where Christians are negligible. Christian schools were reportedly ordered by the fundamentalists to teach Islam and daily prayers written by Syed Mohammad Iqbal should also be sung in the morning. They also ordered that Muslims be placed on the managing committees of Christian schools and their opinions sought before taking decisions. No one denied an unconfirmed report that a Christian student was beaten up and that Christian schools encouraged drug addiction and a permissive lifestyle among children. Pamphlets and handbills are reportedly circulated asking students not to recite prayers, calling God – one’s Father, as it goes against the tenets of Islam, which does not mention God to be so. There is a view that some influential Muslim businesspersons involved with education, fear the Christian institutions, which offer quality education at fair fees and want to either get them out of the competition or control them by being on the management or taking over these institutions.
4. Christians are soft targets with no support
For many people, Christians are soft targets for politicians, extremist groups and other vested interests and the bogey of conversions is a handy tool to achieve their selfish ends. Most of the time, conversions are used by the opposition and the ruling parties to score points over each other – with Christians caught in between. No political party or group has spoken in favor of the Christians, since they are politically inconsequential and economically backward in the state. Whipping up anti-Christian sentiments is the fastest ticket to gaining popularity, with many a minion fundamentalist, taking potshots at will. All those who have converted have done so, knowing fully well the consequences and reportedly buckle down only under extreme torture and pressure, for there is no one to hear their cry.
5. Muslims well organized to protect the faith
Noted clergyman & Hurriyat Conference chief, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq recently launched a well networked multi-faceted Majlis Tahafuz-e-Imaan (Committee for Protection of Faith) to “thwart nefarious designs of pervasive forces and the deep-rooted conspiracy of making youth apostate and defectors by giving them concessions and benefits secretly”. It aims to make people “aware of missionary tactics and this would be exposed before public to safeguard Imaan (faith) of our brethren”. The website (www.tahafuzeiman.org) further adds “Though the fundamental goal for this organization is to thwart catastrophic missionary activities however it cannot dissociate itself from immunizing its own people with injections of Quran and Authentic Sunnah. These are noble ideals and one must stand up for one’s belief. However, the fear is that such advocacy can well be misused at the lower level, with little control or machinery to check the abuse in the name of protecting the faith, including taking law into one’s hand. Imams (clerics) are reported at the Friday prayer gatherings preach against apostasy, mentioning Christians & one even referring to a Korean couple to be targeted next.
6. Persecution history of death, churches burnt & mayhem
There have been instances of Christians killed and property destroyed mysteriously, even until recently, besides dozens facing grievous inquiries, but here is the track record of over 20 years that cannot be denied. Christians in the Kashmir Valley have faced the fundamentalist wrath earlier. One was when it was alleged that the Alaska Mosque was desecrated by the Israelis in the mid-sixties Arab-Israeli war and the Catholic Church of the Holy Family in the heart of Srinagar at Maulana Azad Road was set ablaze. Another, when a book titled Book of Knowledge was discovered from the Government Degree College (Anantnag) in the early seventies and the All Saints Church, Srinagar was ransacked, set ablaze and copies of the Holy Bible desecrated.
In November 2006, a convert from Islam, Bashir Ahmed Tantray, was shot dead by Islamist extremists in Baramullah district. Recently The All Saints Church was burnt again and in September 2010, Mobs burnt a school and a church in Tanmarg district. On 26 February 2011, a school run by a Christian family was burnt. Among the other schools torched by extremists are The Tyndale Biscoe School (Tanmarg), The Good Shepherd School (Pulwama), etc
7. Hundred percent Muslim Kashmir – Christian dilemma in J & K
India will soon have a 100 percent Muslim Kashmir region, since returning back to their homes for the Kashmiri Pandits and now Christians is impossible, given no political will to remedy the situation and hostile conditions. The government’s seeming inaction both at the state and federal level is greater cause for worry, as Christians in the valley are left at the mercy of the fundamentalists and allowed to perish. The non-existence of even a superficial state minorities commission or an effective human rights / women / child commissions, makes it even more difficult for the truth or the exact impact of persecution to be brought to light. The National Minorities Commission which visited J & K along with a fact finding team placed on record though that they found no evidence of force or fraud in baptisms.
Democracy, Federalism, Secularism, Harmony & Minority Rights at Stake
The union and state government must take a firm stand on the issue, as it has wide repercussions for the country and its citizens as a whole. On the altar of sacrifice, in case of mishandling of the J & K anti-Christian violence issue is the very existence of India as a secular and democratic federation. Fundamentalism of / by any faith needs to be condemned and the rule of law in the land must prevail – not that of might is right. This is especially true for present-day India, which is looking at taking its rightful place as a world superpower. No action by way of any relief or compensation from the government will send the wrong impression that the Kashmiri Christians are being treated as second-class citizens. Sins of omission and commission, such as these create a fertile breeding ground for naxalites or maoists – an internal threat that the government is battling.
The government would conveniently labels these Christians as “migrants”, as in Orissa, rather than “refugees or internally displaced persons”, which is what they are as per international terminology and also denies them any assistance.The government has not been able to quickly investigate the allegations made against the Christians and publicize its findings to prevent rumours from gaining currency and set the matter to rest. No relief of any kind from the administration has been received by the victims, nor is there any hope of it. Or as a Kasmiri Christian youth said, “Let the government say we are not Indian citizens, for it to treat us on par with the other citizens. Then, we will at least be able to beg abroad or with the UN and survive, rather than die like this”, which expresses the shocking state of affairs. In desperation, some of these may be compelled to take up arms and be targeted by the very government, whose duty it is to protect them.
The Church & International Human Rights NGOs Must Intervene The CSF Urgent Recommendations
1. The union government must intervene forthwith put an end to the persecution caused by the Islamic fundamentalists, under the garb of Shariet law and the enquiries being conducted by the Special Investigation Team, appointed by the state government, which is targeting Christians.
2. The union & state governments must ensures the safety of Rev. CM Khanna, Fr. Jim Borst, missionaries and dozen converted families, whose lives and property are in danger. All secular-minded citizens feel that there is grave threat and Christians live in fear and constant danger.
3. The affected Kashmiri Christians, living worst than refugees must be rehabilitated in a camp at Jammu or any suitable place, given property and facilities, government jobs and loans, free-ships and grants, besides other facilities to rebuild their lives and survive elsewhere in J & K.
4. If the union and state governments can’t take care of even the basic needs of the Kashmiri Christians, which is security and freedom of religion, then the government should declare them as “refugees” or “internally displaced persons”, which will enable them get relief from elsewhere.
5. The “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet in J & K”, is an extra-constitutional authority, with no legal sanction and Fatwas or complaints by / against believers of any faiths is unhealthy for secularism & is to be avoided. The communal harmony and rule of law needs to be restored.
6. Efforts must be made to stop the rumor-mongering and baseless allegations, being made in Kashmir and stereotyping / profiling the Christian community, as converting with allurements, such as providing neo-converts with money, alcohol, women, passports, immoral lifestyle, etc.
7. The civil society, human rights activists, mass media and patriots must rise to the occasion and express solidarity with the Christians in Kashmir and ensure that their constitutional rights and freedoms are safeguarded – as in such a hostile environment, they are defenceless.
8. The police under pressure from the “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet”, has registered false cases trumped-up under sections 153A and 295A, for spreading hatred between communities, etc. These cases have been forged upon the missionaries and Christians without a shred of evidence. We therefore urge that they be squashed by the government.
9. The state government needs to consider extending the National Minorities Commission Act and other such human rights and Indian Constitutional safeguards legislation or enact such laws for application in J & K, to ensure that the fundamental guarantees to citizens are available, as available in all other parts of the country.
Some of those affected by persecution
Fr. Jim Borst – Serving J & K for 50 years
Rev. Father Jim Borst, Mill Hill Missionary Catholic Priest has been serving the valley since August 1963. He has established two schools under the name and style of Good Shepherd’s Mission School – one each at Pulwama and Shiv Pora in the Kashmir Valley. His school at Pulwama was bombed twice by the terrorists and was later set ablaze. The Christian schools have been functioning in the valley since the 19th century and have been rendering yeoman’s services in the valley. Tyndale Biscoe School was established in 1865 and St. Joseph’s School, Baramulla in 1905 followed by the Burn Hall School, Srinagar in 1954 and Presentation Convent School, Srinagar in early 40s. Besides this the Mill Hill Missionaries had established Cambrigde school and a college too.
Rev. CM Khanna – Serving as priest for 35 years
The priest was responsible for co-ordinating the constructing 400 houses for the earthquake affected areas in Uri and feeding 200 children for a year and a half in the state. He has worked towards bringing about reconciliation between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslim groups. He has been awarded the Gandhian Global Family Award for 20 years service in J & K, besides other honours. He has been associated with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and active in building communal harmony, under the J & K Peace Foundation, which has been appreciated by all groups.
Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentinian football coach
In 2009, Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentinian football coach (star of the documentary, ‘Inshallah Football’) credited with reviving football in Kashmir has been questioned by the state football association about the funding for his clubs, is now the target of a whisper campaign. Fundamentalists are ratcheting up religious mobilization. His house vandalized, Marcos is now running around asking cops for help. “We have to fend for ourselves,” says his dejected wife, Priscilla – as per media reports.
Persecuted: Two families and one who translated the Bible into Kashmiri
1. Rev. Gayur Massih and Family We have been serving for the last 22 years in the ministry and I am an elder in All Saints CNI Church, besides assisting where ever we can. Our trouble started way back in 2008 with Maulvis and police frequently raiding our prayer meetings and taking details of those who attended them. Often they tried to provoke us, but we bore the persecution silently. There are instances where they even desecrated the Bible, by tearing it and a fatwa (edict) was issued against me and my wife, Chandrakanta, banning our entry into J & K for life. They threatened to kidnap my children – Christina (11) and Catherine (5) – so we got them removed from school. We had to leave with next to nothing. Even, now that we are out, there are reports of mobs and the police trying to break into our house. By God’s grace, we have a Kashmiri Pundit landlord, who is resisting them. The government does not seem to be at all keen on helping the Christians, because numerically, they are insignificant. The government intelligence have all details about the fanaticism being unleashed, but they are doing nothing about it, even as our lives are in danger.
2. Rev. S. Neethirajan and Family
I am a Hindu convert and my wife, Laila is a Muslim convert and we have over 20 years of service, including running a children’s home. Through the Agape Kashmir Trust, we are serving the local community in Kashmir. Yet, we are being targeted with police raids and our house was also stoned. We are always under the government’s watchful eye and I am afraid for my children – Caroline (13) and Catherine (7) – whom we want to give a bright future. We can’t leave Kashmir, since the other children also under our care can’t be left to fend for themselves. In fact, we have had some people even approaching us to convert to Islam, as it will be much easier then, but we have refused. Those who convert to Christianity have to pay high rents and we have had to reach out to many, who are homeless, because they are Christians. We have heard of Maulvis from all mosques, preaching of the dangers of converting from Islam and warning Muslims against missionaries, who talk about the faith. We knew it would be difficult, but no one expected such extreme persecution, as we face now.
3. Predhuman Joseph Dhar, The CSF man in J & K
A scholarly Christian of Kashmiri Pundit orgin and a translator of the Bible in Kashmiri, is a senior citizen, with failing health, that prayers have kept him, still on the go. He is a source of great moral strength to all those championing the cause of human rights and social justice. He is seen in the photo above with Joseph Dias and asks – “Why is the government giving all its attention to the Kashmiri Islamists? The answer is: It’s not because they are Indians; it is because they know the best way of getting you to listen, is to threaten or use violence. Plant a few bombs, hijack the odd plane, mastermind a massacre or two, and suddenly, those in power will beat a path to your door. There will be negotiations, peace talks, and conciliatory proposals and finally, you will get some measure of “justice”, according to you”.
But the Kashmiri Pundits and now Christians are decent, educated people who have always eschewed violence and who, in the face of grave provocation, have never resorted to attention-seeking terrorism. Instead, they have put their faith in Indian democracy, hoping that politicians will recognize that injustice has been done to them and offer some recompense. Sadly, we have failed them. Nobody pays any attention to their cause. Politicians do not regard them as electorally significant enough to merit any concern. As for the rest of the world, when global conferences are held on tension in South Asia and on finding solutions to the Kashmir problem, the Kashmiri Pandits and now Christians don’t even get a mention. They are the invisible people, too uncomplaining to matter and too decent to count for anything. The least we can do is pray for them and support any person or NGO like The CSF, which has taking up their cause.
We suggest you urgently send us your feedback/suggestions, as to how to tackle the issue on hand. We are helpless on our own and need others to take this further. In the meantime, do forward your protest to all the authorities concerned, by copying the matter below
The violence on Christians in J & K is a blot on the secularism and democracy in India, which is looking at playing a larger international role. Such religious cleansing is a violation of the universal freedom of faith norms and also constitutes basic human rights violations.