“There are open letters being written to schools in Uttar Pradesh asking them not to celebrate Christmas. What is going on in this country? This is not about Hindus, Christians, Muslims or Sikhs. It is about our beloved India,” Reverend Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told Al Jazeera.
Earlier this month, radical Hindu groups allegedly assaulted a group of carol singers and set their empty car on fire in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Members of the right-wing Bajrang Dal said they had “proof to show how Christian priests were forcibly converting poor Hindus”. The group has direct links with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
On the evening of December 14, state police in Madhya Pradesh arrested the group of carol singers, including two Catholic priests, for several hours in the city of Satna after members of the right-wing Hindu group accused them of forcible conversions to Christianity. At least 30 seminarians and two priests from St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were arrested, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.