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Hindu vigilante groups disrupt Christmas celebrations on Modi territory

The disruption of Christmas celebrations at
the weekend and last week included the vandalising of a life-size statue of
Jesus Christ at Ambala in Haryana, a northern state governed by Modi’s
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), The Hindu newspaper said.

It also reported activists burnt a model of
Santa Claus and chanted slogans against Christmas celebrations and religious
conversions on Saturday outside a church in Varanasi, Modi’s parliamentary
constituency and Hinduism’s holiest city.

Anoop Shramik, a social activist in Varanasi,
told Reuters he saw about two dozen people burning the Santa Claus.

Contacted by telephone, the federal and state
governments declined to comment.

On Saturday, Christmas celebrations were also
disrupted in Silchar, eastern Assam, after men, claiming to be members of
Bajrang Dal – a right-wing group with close ties to BJP, forced their way into
a church, NDTV, a local news channel reported.

Leader of the main opposition Congress party
and prominent members of minority Christian groups urged Modi to act.

“The PM should direct the BJP governments
of Haryana and Assam to identify the miscreants and bring them before a Court
of law,” P. Chidambaram, India’s former finance minister and a senior
Congress leader, said in a tweet.

Since Modi came to power in 2014, right-wing
Hindu groups have consolidated their position across states and launched
small-scale attacks on religious minorities, saying their action is to prevent
religious conversions.

Several Indian states have passed or are
considering anti-conversion laws that challenge freedom of belief and related
rights that the Indian constitution guarantees to minorities.

Elias Vaz, national vice-president of the All
India Catholic Union, condemned the latest incidents.

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“The strength of India is in its
diversity and the people who have done this at Christmas are the real
anti-nationals,” Vaz said.

Christians and Muslims together account for
nearly 16% of India’s 1.37 billion people.

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