The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India has conveyed to the Union government and the Government of the State of Chhattisgarh its deep apprehension that the decisions of a number of village Panchayats in the Bastar region banning the entry of Christian workers could lead to the large scale persecution of the minority community by aggressive groups.
The government must reverse the decisions of these Panchayats immediately to restore the confidence of the Christian community in Chhattisgarh, which is under considerable stress in recent days. There seems to be well thought out pattern and sinister design behind these actions.
Mr. Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, has said over 50 Gram Panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all "non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages." Some of these include the Sirisguda Gram Sabha, Belar in Lohandiguda and others. The District Collector has admitted that such orders have been passed by three Gram Panchayats. In addition to this, there seems to be a social boycott of Christian villagers, some of whom have also been denied basic amenities including rations.
Such actions are entirely ultra vires of the Constitution of India. They militate against guarantees to all citizens of Freedom of Faith, Freedom of Express and free movement, which are basic human rights. They discriminate against religious minorities, and specially the Christian community.
The delayed action of the district authorities, and the fact that the State government has not acted so far, encourage hostile political elements and their supporters into taking the law into their own hands. The Christian community finds itself extremely vulnerable in these circumstances. There are also accusations that vested commercial interests are encouraging such divisive action by the village Panchayats.
We appeal to the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, and the Chief Minister, Dr. Raman Singh, to take urgent action to reverse these motivated decisions of the village Panchayats, and to order the district authorities to ensure their safety and security of the Christian community, their properties and their places of worship. The government must also ensure the local Christians are given their requirements of essential commodities.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell,
Evangelical Fellowship of India,
New Delhi, India
Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations