Skip to main content

CJP asks NHRC to monitor Varanasi Church attack, urges Facebook to act on video feature used to spread hate

Counterview Desk
In a complaint to Justice HL Dattu, chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) -- with copies to the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police, and Facebook -- top social activist Teesta Setalvad, secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), has has asked NHRC to monitor the manner in which “Hindutva extremists” are harassing the Christian community in Varanasi, leading to mob vandalizing St Thomas Church on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti.
Setalvad has called on the police to take action against those responsible for incident, including those spreading inflammatory messages on social media.

Text of the letter:

We at Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) stand in support of the letter submitted by several citizens’ organisations–Saajha Sanskriti Manch, Kashi Qaumi Ekta Manch, Nagarik Prayas Manch, Insaaf Manch, Rashtriya Inquilabi Dalit Adivasi Manch (RIDAM), and Asian Bridge–to the Police Commissioner, SSP, and the District Magistrate in Varanasi. This letter was submitted after a mob of Hindu extremists allegedly vandalised the 200-year-old St. Thomas Church in the city over alleged attempted religious conversions.
The letter from the citizens’ groups alleges that on Tuesday, October 2, which was Gandhi Jayanti and, ironically, the International Day of Non-Violence, some 40-50 people belonging to the Hindu Yuva Shakti Sangathan reached the St. Thomas Church in Godaulia’s Girajaghar area. The letter alleges that the mob broke the gate’s locks and vandalised the church, raised slogans, and broke a notice board placed next to the church door.
The church’s priest has filed a complaint regarding this at the Dashashwamed police station. The letter continues, saying that some people on Facebook on social media are spreading messages threatening the Christian community, and threatening to attack the church. It notes that people are fabricating rumours regarding religious conversions, leading to an atmosphere of fear in the Christian community.
The letter states that Varanasi has been historically known for its Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb, and says that recent years, anti-social elements have been attempting to break the city’s unity. It also highlights that the church, which is open only on Sundays, hosts people from all faiths who come to pay their respects, indicating mutual harmony, and that the church is widely respected throughout the region.
The letter says that the groups are seeking immediate action in this matter, and that arrests be made and a case be registered, so that peace may prevail in Varanasi. The groups are also seeking that security be arranged for the church, and other religious places in the city. CJP’s sister organisation, Sabrang, took note of these events in two separate pieces, highlighting inflammatory posts on Facebook.
Pravin Dubey, an office-bearer of the Hindu Yuva Shakti Sangathan, noted gleefully on Facebook on October 2, "Priest of the Gaudolia church, today the Hindu Yuva Shakti made you flee". Dubey also shared a video of another post-holder, Yogi Aloknath, in which the latter said, "Hindu mar raha hain, dushman badh raha hain (Hindus are dying and the enemy is growing)".
More inflammatory posts with brazenly threatening language can be found on one Rakesh Chhetri’s profile. CJP is reiterating our support for Varanasi’s local citizens’ groups who have spoken out against this hate-filled attack and language:
1. CJP calls on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take cognisance of these events, and intervene if required so that peace may be preserved in Varanasi. Moreover, we are highlighting that while the attack on the church may have passed, the inflammatory Facebook posts continue to remain intact and visible for all to see on the platform. It is widely known that social media platforms are not always efficient and proactive when addressing hate. We urge the NHRC to examine these posts, and take action against Facebook so that such inflammatory speech may be curbed.
2. CJP calls on Facebook to take immediate notice of this matter, given that it is Facebook’s platform that is being used to proliferate rumours and spread fear, and take action against those who engage in such activity. CJP takes note of the fact that, when testifying before the United States Senate in April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the issue of hate speech, acknowledging that Facebook "didn’t do enough to prevent" its own tools "from being used for harm," saying this "goes for fake news, for foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy."
While the US Senate specifically questioned Zuckerberg on the explosion of hate speech targeting the Rohingya in Myanmar, it is clear that hate speech is a problem for Facebook in India as well, and needs to be tackled strongly and continuously.
3. Lastly, CJP urges the local administration to take serious note of this issue, and take immediate action against those responsible, including those spreading inflammatory content on social media. We strongly believe that there can be no peace without justice, and so it is vital to ensure that justice is served in this matter so that peace prevails in Varanasi. It must also be noted that this is not the first time the Christian community has been targeted in Uttar Pradesh.
On September 27, 2018, “The Citizen” reported on a series of reported attacks targeting Christians in the state, saying, "The small, few hundred strong Christian population of Jaunpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh has over the past fortnight reportedly come under concerted attack from right wing fundamentalist groups operating with the connivance of local police." The Citizen has compiled a timeline of the alleged incidents.

Comments

Uma said…
Where, oh where, is my India? A few months ago I received a video titled "Where is my India?" I wish I could share it with your readers.

TRENDING

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release of 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).