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Minority Groups Seek Protection from Harassment by Hindu Extremist Groups in Northeastern India

The North East Catholic Research Forum (NECRF), a collective of lay Catholics in northeast India urged the state government to protect minority Christians and tribal people who are being harassed by hardline Hindu groups.

Minority Christians Seek Protection from Increased Harassment by Hindu Extremist Groups in Northeastern Assam

“We cannot remain silent when our community is suffering,” said John S. Shilshi, founder member of the North East Catholic Research Forum (NECRF), in an interview with UCA News on Wednesday, March 6.

On March 3rd, the NECRF submitted a memorandum to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma expressing disappointment with the state administration’s failure to address the community’s grievances.

The memorandum reminded the chief minister that he is the guardian of all people, regardless of their caste, creed, and religion.

John S. Shilshi, a founding member of NECRF, detailed how the memorandum highlighted the ultimatum issued by a Hindu group called Kutumbha Surakshya Parishad (family protection council) to Christian schools in Assam, demanding the removal of all Christian symbols.

The president of the group, Satya Ranjan Borah, also threatened priests and nuns, demanding that they stop wearing cassocks and habits on school campuses, and that churches located within educational complexes be removed.

On February 23, a poster in Assamese, the state’s official language, was displayed near a Christian school. It read, “This is a final warning to stop using schools as religious institutions. Remove Jesus Christ, Mary, etc., from school premises.”

The memorandum also referred to a proposed legislation, the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2023, introduced in the state assembly on February 10. The bill aims to curb evangelism by imposing imprisonment and hefty fines for engaging in practices such as ‘magical healing’.

The chief minister himself stated to the media that the proposed legislation was intended to curb evangelism in Assam and would be an important milestone for his government.

“We want Muslims to remain Muslims, Christians to remain Christians, and Hindus to remain Hindus so that there can be a proper balance in our state,” Sarma reportedly said.

The Assam Christian Forum (ACF), an umbrella organization representing various denominations in the state, refuted the allegation that conversions to Christianity were being carried out through magical healing.

The NECRF, on the other hand, urged the chief minister to reconsider the language used in the bill and remove any “controversial references” to Christians in order to prevent misinterpretation by those with ulterior motives.

NECRF also drew attention to another “unreasonable demand” made by pro-Hindu groups to delist tribal people who have converted to Christianity from the country’s recognized list of Schedule Tribes.

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