After weeks of planning, over 40 Christian organisations from the state assembled at Azad Maidan about 1 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 12 and protested attacks on the community in Maharashtra.
According to a community (UCF) toll – free helpline number – a human rights group based in New Delhi which monitors atrocities against Christians in India there were 597 incidents of violence against Christians from 21 states in last year alone till the end of December 2022.
A memorandum was also presented to chief minister, Eknath Shinde. The representation and protests expressed deep concern that at the escalation in violence against Christian personnel, places of worship, churches and their institutions across India and in Maharashtra using the bogey of conversion. “There are continued waves of vile hate speech and targeted violence which includes physical and verbal assaults on religious leaders and members, damage to and desecration of places of worship, disruption of prayer services and restrictions on religious gatherings, false accusation of forced and fraudulent religious conversions”, says the memorandum.
The Samast Christi Samaj is an umbrella organisation of different Christian organisations, has alleged that “atrocities” on Christians are on the rise in Maharashtra. The slogan for today’s protest was “Enough is Enough,” atrocities against the Christian community must be stopped and everyone’s rights should be safeguarded. Earlier the protest was planned as a protest march from Rani Bagh to Azad Maidan but had to be altered to simply an assembly at Azad Maidan. Representatives from the community from various districts and denominations addressed the gathering.
The memorandum expresses anguish at the targeted violence by self – declared vigilante groups seem to enjoy a sense of immunity from the rule of law, as police and local media often accompany them. The memorandum states that it is a matter of concern that “the police watch in silence and then take the Christian victims into custody on charges of alleged illegal religious conversions which are not true
“Hate Speech, Hate Crimes and coercive measures against religious minorities and members of civil society continues relentlessly. The Anti – Conversion laws and the Dalit issues have become a Damocles Sword , used even against the Christian Minorities, the Muslims and in the name of Love Jihad and now Land Jihad, economic boycott calls and now more happenings in Maharashtra and in Mumbai
The specific demands are:
Strengthen human rights monitoring mechanisms by setting up a state level redressal commission
Government of Maharashtra must nominate at least four representatives from amongst the Christian community in the Legislative Council and Local Self – Government bodies for adequate representation.
Scholarships for Christian community students to prepare for competitive exams like UPSC, MPSC on the lines of Chatrapati Sahu Maharaj Research and Training Institute [ SARTHI ] as provided for the Maratha Community and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute [ BARTI ] for the SC community
Government of Maharashtra passed a resolution CSW – 2260 dated 6th JULY 1960 ( Social welfare Department ) which provided equivalent status of schedule caste to the Neo Buddhist community. On the same lines/grounds of Parity the Christian community should be given equivalent status with immediate effect to cease social discrimination.
Census of the Christian community on the basis of religion and their respective caste in the upcoming census.
Speedy closure of cases where false allegations have been levied against Christians for instance in the case of Late Father Stan Swamy who worked tirelessly for the Adivasis and the down- trodden who died in prison and many others who continue to face alleged wrongful detentions and prosecutions.
Reconstruction of churches/Places of worship demolished illegally
Appropriate and adequate compensation to Christian individuals and institutions that are targeted for their religious identity.
Strict action, arrest and prosecution against vigilante mobs who round up individuals, trespass religious properties and spew hate speeches.
Basic preliminary investigation may necessarily be conducted by the police in cases alleging religious conversions before the registration of FIRs.
Restoration of the St. Francis Xavier Chapel and installation of the Statue of St. Francis at Golibar, Santacruz East, Mumbai. We demand lodging of an FIR immediately against the Builder and those responsible for the demolition which was done on 09 March 2023.
St. Peter’s Seaside Cemetery at Bandra- Cancellation and withdrawal of the amendment to the DP Plan made in September 22 and ensure not an inch of land is taken of the more than 100 years old cemetery.
Restoration of the Pre – Matric Scholarships for Minorities cancelled by the Centre.
All the districts/Talukas of Maharashtra including Mumbai and Thane should be allocated land for Christian Cemeteries.
Proportionate Christian Representations in the more than 40 Maharashtra State Corporations and Commissions.
Representative of Anglo – Indian community should be immediately appointed in the Maharashtra State Assembly.
False cases against Pastors/members in Alandi, Pune and Other Cases in Aurangabad, Buldhana where pre – planned attacks of framing Pastors and Christians in false charges and preventing them from conducting prayer services and attacking them physically. For more details: Contact Adv. Wilson Nathan: 9822276794
Jeri Meri Christian Cemetery, Saki Naka, Andheri East. This Cemetery has been in use since 1980. However, the Cemetery has been encroached and an FIR has been lodged on 18/03/2023 and we demand the said encroachment should be cleared as we have lack of space for the graves for burial of Christians. For more details you could contact: Mr. Sunil Metkari: 8999234567/Mr. Nicholas Almedia: 9619108082.
Restoration of the crumbling ancient 500 years old Church of St. John the Baptist Marol in SEEPZ, MIDC by the Maharashtra State and be opened throughout the year for devotees and pilgrims for visitation and prayers.
Maharashtra must not pass an Anti – Conversion Law is also a demand in the memorandum since “it results in discrimination and vigilante violence. We are One. Please do not divide us in the name of religion. “
Bombay Cathlolic Sabha and others took a lead in the protest.