Christians in India welcomed with cautious optimism the Supreme Court decision to dismiss a petition seeking the monitoring of missionary activities in the country.
On March 25, the Supreme Court dismissed Hindu Dharma Parishad’s petition seeking to constitute a monitoring board to monitor the activities of Christian Missionaries in India.
Vijayesh Lal, general secretary the Evangelical Fellowship of India, described it as part of a larger propaganda against Christians.
“Their very action is part of a well-oiled propaganda,” he said, adding that he is expecting more of such things “as their goal is to hyper-polarize and divide the country.”
“First they vilified Muslims now they are trying to vilify Christians,” said Lal.
He said the petitioners were well aware it would be dismissed by the court, but the idea was to radicalize society, to tell people to keep an eye on missionary activities.
Asir Ebenezer, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, said there are already “monitoring mechanics” at different levels.
Father Stanley Kozhichira, president of Signis India, said there are enough provisions in the code of criminal law to take care of any violation by any individual or group.
There is absolutely no need for special surveillance, said the priest, adding that it is “ridiculous” that the courts even admitted “such a frivolous petition.”
“How can one religious group control another. Even if there has been any infringement or fear of one, it is for the concerned authorities to take action not a religious group,” he said.
John Dayal, former president of the All India Catholic Union, welcomed the court decision, describing the petition as a “malevolent move” that has been nipped in the bud.
“But I don’t think this will in any way stop the harassment of Christian institutions, nuns and priests,” he said.
He cited several places where a sharp rise in hate crimes against Christians in the last six years have been noticed.
This year alone, at least one Christian pastor has been killed and 16 churches were attacked on Christmas Day.
Dayal said nuns continue to be harassed, and it is feared that the passage of anti-conversion laws by more states “will aggravate the situation on the ground.”
“Even though Supreme Court has warned the petitioners of creating public disorder and forced them to withdraw their plea, I fear this can come back through some other form,” said A C Michael, president of the Federation of Catholic Associations of the Archdiocese of Delhi.
The Madras High Court had earlier rejected the petition, which charged that anti-nationalists are forcibly converting people from Hinduism to Christianity.