Opinion: Intimidation of Christians in Telangana

The persecution of Christians is reduced to a footnote in the larger narrative of communal violence in India.

First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
-Martin Niemöller

This quotation from Martin Niemöller’s post-war impromptu speeches is used worldwide to refer to political persecution. Its relevance cannot be doubted.

Valentine’s Day had a different connotation for Christians in Telangana as they woke up to the news that a Methodist Church and its worshippers in Janwada were attacked by 200 members belonging to right-wing organisations ostensibly over “road widening”. This occurred the previous evening, that is, Tuesday evening, 13 February ’24. Janwada is about 25 km away from Hyderabad.

MS Education Academy

A few days later, it came to light that graves were vandalised in the St. John’s Cemetery, beside the Parade Ground, Secunderabad. The cemetery dates back to the early 1800s and was designated as a heritage structure of Hyderabad in 1998.

The latest incident took place on Thursday night, February 22 in Shamirpet. A prayer meeting was being held in a small hall and again right-wingers disrupted the prayer meeting asking the Christians to show the license to hold prayer meetings.

The police were intimated and they did a good job of diffusing the situation before it turned violent. No complaint was filed as a consequence.

It is a matter of concern that in a few days, that is, February 13-22, there have been concerted attempts to intimidate and harass a peace-loving minority.

What is the message being sent out especially as the General Elections are to take place most probably in April? Is this a calculated plan to silence any form of dissent? What is the response of the Telangana government?

Christians have been attacked in Telangana in the past but it never made sensational news. The persecution of Christians is reduced to a footnote in the larger narrative of communal violence in India.

The United Christian Forum stated that 687 incidents of violence against Christians had been reported in 334 days of 2023 in India. That’s an enviable average of two attacks per day! 531 attacks took place in North Indian states but that does not leave any room for complacency!

The minority Christian community’s contribution to the education and health sectors is more than remarkable but that is of no consequence in the face of hateful propaganda of forced conversion, rice bag Christians, etc. It is for the Telangana government to reassure the Christian community which feels threatened and intimidated.

First the minorities…who next? Speak up now or there will be no one to speak up for you. Martin Niemöller learnt this lesson the hard way. He initially supported the Nazis and their right-wing policies. He became an outspoken critic when as a Lutheran Pastor, he found Hitler’s interference in the Protestant Church unbearable.

He spent the last eight years of the Nazi regime in prisons and concentration camps. He always regretted his earlier insensitivity and inaction and openly expressed his remorse in his speeches after the Second World War. His famous lines quoted at the beginning are testimony to his guilt. Let his words not be in vain.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do
not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the organisation.)

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