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|October 3, 1998||
Minorities in Gujarat under sustained attack
While the attack on a Christian mission in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh has hit the headlines, several such attacks in Gujarat, allegedly as part of a "systematic and planned conspiracy", have gone unreported, according to a report released in New Delhi.
Compiled by a three-member team of the Nishant Natya Manch and the Progressive Organisation of Women which visited several areas of Gujarat from August 23 to 30, the report says a concerted campaign appears to be underway, starting from Gujarat, to turn the country into a "Hindu Rashtra".
Releasing the report on Wednesday, September 30, team members Shams-ul-Islam, Neelima and Shireen said the charge was borne out by the fact that at the entry to several villages in Gujarat, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had put up signboards saying "Welcome to a village in the Hindu Rashtra".
While Muslims are being attacked in south and central Gujarat, Christians are being targeted all over the state, the report said.
While it is difficult to give an exact number, the team members said the report compiled certain major incidents that had taken place recently. These included the attack on local and foreign priests in Padra village of Baroda district on March 2, disruption of a Christian function in Baroda on March 4, the demolition of a church in Naroda on April 16, attack on St Mary's School in Ahmedabad on May 28, exhumation of a Christian boy's body in Kapadwanj on July 6, attack on a Christian school in Zankhav in Surat district, a bonfire of Bibles in Rajkot on June 20, the destruction of a church stall at a fair in Rajkot a few days later, and an attack on Muslims in Sanjeli village on August 15.
While the police remained "silent spectators," several newspapers in Gujarat added to the problem with their biased and inflammatory writing, the team said. Several inflammatory pamphlets printed by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal were being openly distributed in Gujarat in clear violation of penal laws, they added.
Also, more than 5,000 people, mostly belonging to the minority communities, had been detained under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act which is equivalent to the now-repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Natya Nishant Manch, the oldest street theatre group that has been working against fundamentalist trends in the subcontinent, did 25 performances of street plays in different places in Gujarat. The common people are against such incidents of communal violence which is slowly destroying the composite Gujarati culture, the Manch said.
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