Christians and Muslims in India express alarm over initiative to rewrite country's history

People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. August 29, 2014.Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Christian and Muslim leaders in India have expressed concern over an initiative to "revise" the country's history in an apparent effort to assert the dominance of Hindus.

According to Reuters, a committee of scholars was tasked six months ago with revising India's history by the government of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The aims of the committee include using archaeological finds and DNA as evidence to prove that today's Hindus are directly descended from the land's first inhabitants many thousands of years ago, and making the case that the Hindu scriptures are fact not myth.

"I have been asked to present a report that will help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history," said K.N. Dikshit, the committee's chairman.

Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, the creator of the committee, has stated that the group's work was part of a larger effort to revise the history of the country.

Christian and Muslim leaders have denounced the efforts as a systematic attempt to sideline non-Hindus as second-class citizens in their own land.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian bishops' conference, said that the initiative "cannot be appreciated," especially as it comes amid allegations that the government is ignoring "burning issues" in the country.

"There is large-scale poverty in the country, coupled with marginalization and alienation of the farmers and village poor. Instead of trying to rewrite history, the government should first deal with the issues troubling the common masses," he told UCA News.

Asaduddin Owaisi, who leads the Muslim party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, lamented that his people had "never felt so marginalised in the independent history of India." "The government wants Muslims to live in India as second-class citizens," he went on to say.

Meanwhile, Christian aid group Open Doors has launched a social media campaign against plans to eradicate Christianity from India within three years.

The announcement came amid church attacks carried out by extremists linked to groups such as Dharm Jagran Samiti, which reportedly wants the country to become an exclusively Hindu nation, or "Indu Rashtra," by 2021.

Open Doors said that it wanted to "light up" social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms "with memes that remind believers in India that Christians around the world stand with them, pray for them and call on world leaders to intervene on their behalf."

India has been ranked by Open Doors in its 2018 World Watch List as the 11th worst nation where Christians experience the most persecution.

The group also expressed concern about other Hindu groups targeting Christians such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). "Hindu radicals also dominate the central government in New Delhi," the Christian aid group warned.