India's political parties told to make Christian security a priority

The safety and security of minorities must be the top priority of India's political parties in the forthcoming elections, says the All India Christian Council.

AICC secretary general John Dayal said on Monday that there was a need to "reassure minorities...that India continues to be the secular country envisaged by its founding fathers and guaranteed by the constitution".

Denouncing the rise in anti-Christian violence across India, Dayal stressed the urgency of security, adding that at least 14 states had been hit by violence during 2007-2008. They include most notably Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

"Even today, over 6,000 Christians in Orissa are forced to live in refugee camps because of threats to their life and religion by the Sangh Pariwar workers," Dayal said.

"At its height in August-October 2008, over 50,000 persons were displaced and forced to run to the jungles as gangs burnt over 4,000 houses in 300 villages in the Kandhamal district of Orissa. Hundreds of churches were destroyed. Many girls and women were molested and raped, including a Catholic nun."

Dayal, who is also a member of the National Integration Council, added that Christmas could be celebrated in Orissa only after over 6,000 Central Reserve Police personnel were posted to the state.

The AICC urged all political parties to take up the demands of Dalit Christians who have been deprived of their Scheduled Caste status, a status given to Hindu Dalits to ensure their equal rights but denied to Muslim and Christian Dalits.

The AICC also asked Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati to provide assistance in procuring land for schools, especially English language schools for Dalit children.

Christians and Dalits are "being hindered by official apathy and inaction", the organisation alleged.