Published On: Sat, Sep 27th, 2014

India: Hindu extremists warn Christians and Muslims to stay away from festivals

A Hindu group in India warned Muslims and Christians on Thursday not to join in a lively Hindu religious festival this month, the latest attempt by activists to step up segregation in the multi-faith country. This tension has risen since the country’s election of a Hindu hardliner.

“We are warning Muslims and Christians that they should stay away from all our festivals. The Navratri festival is for Hindus only,” Surendra Jain, spokesman for a Hindu group called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP], told Reuters.

The annual, nine-night Navratri Hindu festival began Thursday. In many parts of the country it is marked by  celebrations involving prayer, music and dance among men and women.

Encouraged by the May election victory of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hardliners in his party and affiliated Hindu groups have been stirring up sentiment against India’s religious minorities in recent months.

While Christians and Muslims are known to take part in these activities and the Holi Hindu spring festival, the Hindu activists are demanding identity cards to keep the non-Hindus out of festival venues.

“Muslims and Christians do not pray to the Hindu mother goddess, so why should they dance and enjoy nightly feasts with us?” said Jain, accusing young Muslim men of participating in the festival to tempt Hindu girls into converting to Islam.

Members of the VHP have in the past been accused of instigating communal violence, including riots in the western state of Gujarat, where at least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.

The VHP is a radical member of a cluster of right-wing Hindu groups that includes Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has distanced himself from the anti-Muslim views of some of his supporters.

In an interview with the CNN news channel last week, Modi praised the patriotism of India’s Muslims and said they would not be tempted by Islamist groups such as al-Qaida.




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