P Victor Vijay Kumar
Pastor Swamy is a low income Dalit Christian based out of Hyderabad. His wife works as a part time teacher in a private school and he is a full-time member of Gideon International, which is engaged in printing the Bible and sharing words of Jesus with the public by distributing the New Testament. The members of this association or its employees are not truly equipped, like other denominations, to spread the gospel with a clear programme. However, the general modus operandi of propagation is to distribute the bible like pamphlets to general public.
On January 21, 2017, early in the morning at around 6 am, Pastor Swamy was distributing copies of the New Testament near Tank Bund where people gather for their morning walk. Not sure if he was being followed and stalked in a planned way, but the Viswa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal goons somehow reached him and started abusing him using foul language. The entire incident of threatening him was recorded by them and Mr. Venkatesh Gupta, who is reportedly the Mahankali (the renamed Secunderabad) District President, uploaded the video on his FB page, claiming some heroic achievement of suppressing a non-hindu propagandist voice, which was hailed by his followers on facebook. (The video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOvyFMi_Fwc; or at https://www.facebook.com/venkatesh.gupta.5621?fref=ts).
Further, VHP goons reportedly took him to Mahankali Police Station at around 7.30 – 8 am (it actually takes less than 20 minutes to reach the station) and filed false charges against him on the allegation that Pastor Swamy had resorted to religious abuse (actually, the area where the offence was committed does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Police Station). After posing serious life threatening warnings to Pastor Swamy, he was released from the Police Station on personal assurance of a friend at around 3.30- 4 pm on the same day.
In a matter of 15 minutes, during his travel in his friend’s car, who was dropping him near a bus station to move on to his home, he fell unconscious and was rushed to Kamineni Hospitals, LB Nagar, Hyderabad. Pastor Swamy was found to have a blood clot in his brain and was operated on, after which he went into a partial coma to complete coma. The present health condition of Pastor Swamy is disappointing and deteriorating and doctors are not able to assert if he would come out of hospital alive.
Pastor Swamy had also previously been reprimanded by Hindutva goons. He, however, was not subjected to such a tormenting experience. As the news did not pop up in any media and has not been taken up by any Political Party, Civil Liberties Committee took up the initiative to bring the news into main stream and constituted a fact finding committee with senior leaders of Telangana State.
While this being so, the Pastors of the twin cities have been organizing various fasting prayers for the health of Pastor Swamy and for the repentance of the accused. Various Christ followers of various denominations have been flooding the Hospital for consoling his family members daily, the same could not attract media attention. It may be noted that Pastor Swamy has never eaten beef. Amongst those who visited the Pastor Swamy include Ex-Cabinet Minister Mr. Jaipal Reddy and his visit also could not be covered by the media.
In the entire episode, one striking general feature is Pastor Swamy and his fellow Pastors have not approached any Police or any Government authority till date to impress upon the Government to attend to pastor Swamy except for organizing prayers. Pastor Swamy, as he known in his circles, has never complained on anyone in his life after being abused by Hindutva goons on several occasions earlier. As he is supposed to live a biblical life, he keeps mum on specific questions of harassment implying no truth and no false meaning of the answer. Under this pretext, without deepening their investigation through their surveillance cameras and other possible means of enquiry, the Police filed a case against VHP goons under weak sections, as per which they got bail on the same day of arrest while Pastor Swamy is still suffering the injury and fighting for his life. However, the Police fail to answer where was Pastor Swamy from 6.30 to 7.30 am, during which it is felt that he was brutally beaten under his brain and on kidneys using RSS trained techniques.
This incident happened as part of a series of attacks in the span of a week. An attack is also reported on a Pastor in Godavari Khani, Telangana and Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh during the same period. It is informally gathered that BJP city leaders MLC Ramachander Rao and MP Bandaru Dattatreya (who are the same culprits in case of Rohith Vemula) are safeguarding the culprits in the case of Pastor Swamy. It may be recollected that another Pastor Sanjiv was murdered in January 2014, in Vikarabad, suburbs of Hyderabad, in front of his young children and wife at his residence by Hindu Vahini Group, who are now scot free. It is again the pressure of Civil Liberties Committee which forced police to arrest the culprits eventually but left on bail with a weak FIR.
Explicit everyday and festival related publicly religious activities of other religions are not considered as religious propaganda but the silent distribution of bible by a powerless individual is deemed as ‘offensive’ religious propaganda. Attack on Pastor Swamy, who comes from the Dalit community of lower income group, depicts the heinous treatment to those in non-conformity with brahminical Hindutva. One or the other pretext is found in the name of beef or in the name of ‘conversion’ to suppress the non-conformist Dalit sections.
As the Christians do not get classified as SCs, the same is taken to the advantage of Hindutva forces to attack them. It is gathered from Pastors in and around Hyderabad that about 500 attacks have happened on churches and Pastors after Modi Government assumed the charge at the helm of the country. These offences range from pelting stones at Churches to attacks on pastors. This section of the community has become vulnerable at the hands of Hindutva goons for they do not publicise the atrocities committed on them nor does the mainstream media bring them to light for being ‘unwarranted civilians’ of the country. There has hardly been any instance of forced conversion or any baited conversion by these financially and socially weak Pastors. This section is predominantly considered as aliens by majority Hindus in terms of their culture and social network.
Article 25 of Indian Constitution clearly and loudly says “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion”. In this pluralist society, the Indian constitution guarantees
(i) freedom of conscience – which means one can review, introspect, debate, revise the (spiritual) thoughts inculcated in one’s mind over a period of time, which could be due to majoritarianist dominant conscience developed over a period of time or as per the circumstances created around each social individual.
(ii) freedom to profess, practice and PROPAGATE (emphasis added): The means to freedom of conscience is that someone needs to profess about a change and someone needs to propagate it too. The Indian constitution without limiting itself to stating freedom of conscience, it enumerated the drivers for the same and scope to revere and respect the same.
All the above comes with one conditionality i.e subject to PUBLIC ORDER. This “Public Order” is the domain of the State. This is not in purview of an “interpretation” left to an individual. This Public Order is generally confined within hurting religious sentiments, intimidation, instigation etc. However, the danger we have in front of us is – this is interpreted by Brahminical Majoritarinists. The kind of practice is also questioned and mooted by the same, leveraging the State machinery.
Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are religions strongly believing in propagation of the truth they define. While there is no instance of a Hindutva Prophet (there is no prophecy because it contains only Varnasrama dharmam) who propagated the code of life through his preaching in the scripts. Brahminical Hindutva is basically not supposed to be propagated as it believes that the fate of a man is decided by his birth and it is the duty to protect varna/jati. Principally, brahmin does not believe in conversion as Brahmin is not supposed to spread and his philosophy needs to be exclusive. However, after consolidation of brahminical forces, the same is mooted to wield political power through religion.
The attacks on Pastors have a pattern. They target weak links and prefer to shy away from financially sound and well-established savarna Christians. Further, almost all who were killed in Karamchedu and Chundur were Christian Dalits, who had less connections with mainstream caste Hindus. While priests from other religions are generally not attacked in this country, there has been several Pastors who are attacked, killed and burnt alive in this country. This polarisation speaks volumes about the skewed conscience and how India has a preference to sensationalism in campaigning against religious atrocities.
P Victor Vijay Kumar A is writer and critic. He is accessible at his e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook ID ‘P V Vijay Kumar’ for any clarification or information.