New Delhi: A Hindu outfit in Assam has given Christian schools in the state a 15-day ultimatum to remove all Christian symbols and religious habits worn by priests, nuns, and brothers on their campuses.
The ultimatum issued by one Kutumba Surakshya Parishad includes removal of idols and photographs of Jesus and Mary as well as churches located on school complexes, UCA reported.
The outfit has claimed that the move is aimed at “preventing Christian missionaries from using schools for conversion activities”.
Satya Ranjan Borah, president of the Hindu outfit, at a press conference in Guwahati on February 7, said, “Christian Missionaries are converting schools and educational institutes into religious institutes. We will not allow it.”
The group has warned of dire consequences if Christian schools fail to comply with the demand.
Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati dismissed the allegations as baseless. “We are aware of the threat and I do not understand why this is happening,” he told UCA News, adding that legal means would be explored to address such open threats.
In response to the ultimatum, Christian leaders have advised priests, nuns, and brothers to wear civil Indian dresses on campuses as a precaution.
Christian leaders plan to approach Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to address the threats posed to Christianity and missionary activities.
Christian leaders say threats to Christianity and missionary activities have increased in recent years in the entire northeast India region after Hindu groups began to push cultural nationalism. The Hindu groups have succeeded in portraying Christianity as a diabolical force to destroy Hindu native culture and to convert Hindus to Christianity, the UCA report said.
In Assam, Christians make up 3.74 percent of the population, exceeding the national average of 2.3 percent.
The United Christian Forum (UCF), a civil society organisation focused on Christian issues, had released a statement last year highlighting the rise in attacks against the community. It pointed out that there had been 525 attacks against Christians in India just in the first eight months of 2023. The group had cautioned that if the trend were to continue then 2023 would prove to be one of the most violent and difficult years the Christian community in India has ever seen, breaking the recent record set by 2022, and 2021 before that.
“All these incidents of violence are by mob violence led by so called vigilante groups of particular faith who are allegedly receiving support from people in power,” the organisation said in a press release.