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

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

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.

Russia, China to call the shots in Middle East, as Muslim nations turn into house of cards

By Haider Abbas* Only a naive would buy that the ‘situation of ceasefire’ between the State of Israel and Hamas would continue, as if the foiled attempt to demolish Al Aqsa this time, is not be repeated, if not in any near future then in sometime to come. Israel already has spurned the ‘ceasefire’ by storming Al Aqsa after the Friday prayers on May 21.

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Covid fear? Cremation rituals gone upside down, Dalits asked to do Brahminical rituals

By Abhay Jain, Sandeep Pandey*  As Covid consumes human life in a very conspicuous way we are confronted with additional problem of disposing of human corpses. Cremation grounds are lit with continuous pyres, graveyards are running out of land and now Ganga has become a mass grave potentially polluting its water.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.