Championing causes is in his DNA, whether for police reforms, human rights and city and community issues. In this interview, Dolphy D’Souza, former president of Bombay Catholic Sabha, tells Olga Tellis that he is not surprised at the attacks on churches and convents. It also happened under the Vajpayee government. There is a pattern. The RSS uses BJP victories to further its agenda of a Hindu nation.
Former top cop Julio Ribeiro has said that the Catholic community is feeling scared after the recent attacks on the Church and the nuns in GHl. As a leader of the community do you share this view?
I am not surprised at the attacks that are happening. Under the Vajpayee government in 1997, there were similar attacks on churches every single day, though not as vicious as now. In 1998, predominately tribal Christian homes and huts in the Dangs area of Gujarat were burnt for five days during the Christmas week. Keshubhai Patel was then the chief minister. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Gujarat during the Gujarat riots in April 2002, and told the then chief minister Narendra Modi to do his raj dharma. It was also during the Vajpayee’s government that the pastor Graham Staines and his two children Philip, aged 10, and Timothy, aged 6, were burnt alive in Orissa on January 22, 1999.
Don’t you feel that it is the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar that are behind the atrocities and anti-minority statements that are being made?
They are not fringe elements; they are the footsoldiers/lumpen elements, who perpetrate the physical and emotional violence on the dictates of the top echelons of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who are highly educated but they never get caught. Their’s is a fascist ideology and they really worship Hitler. B.S. Moonje, an RSS ideologue, was the first to meet Italian dictator Mussolini in 1931, and is said to have played a crucial role in moulding the RSS along Italian fascist lines. Guru Golwalkar, another ideologue, was an admirer of Hitler’s idea of “German nationalism”, which meant preserving the purity of the nation by purging it of Sematic (Jews) races. The RSS has three enemies — Communists, Muslims and Christians — the rest they claim are part of their culture.
But the RSS also studied the structure of the Jesuits.
Yes, their concept of celibacy, poverty and a simple life was taken from the Jesuits. Their thinking is to change the mindset of people so they assimilated the thought process of the structural Church. They were impressed that even at the height of the fascist ideology, the structural Church survived. So they survive on political power to drive their agenda, namely the concept of a Hindu rashtra. Prime Minister Modi comes from the same stock. He is double-forked in terms of message. His election campaign was about development and corruption. Now see what is happening. They are dividing the polity by “love jihad”, “ghar wapsi”, Congress-mukt Bharat where Nehru and Gandhiji and other freedom fighters are to be eliminated; they invent issues that catch the imagination of the people.
Isn’t this a backlash of the Congress projecting one family as having fought for freedom?
I agree with you the Congress never balanced or gave due recognition to the other leaders of the freedom movement. But look at this pattern we are witnessing.
What is this?
They have tasted blood and want to push their agenda of one people, one nation. The 31 per cent vote the BJP got in the 2014 general election is no vote at all and this is worrying them. In the 300 days of the Modi government there have been over 800 attacks on minorities. What is more frightening is the infiltration of the RSS cadre in education, the police, military and schools. In 1977, in the Janata Party government, they asked for the information and broadcasting ministry, human resources development ministry and external affairs ministry portfolios so they could infiltrate the media, bureaucracy and foreign missions. The pattern is subtle and clear. So even when they are not in power, their cadres are there.
What is your thinking on the rape of the 72-year-old nun and desecration of the chapel incident at a convent in Gangnapur in West Bengal? Do you think the motive was robbery?
They entered the convent and raped the nun, desecrated the Holy Communion. See the audacity, the provocation — a robber wouldn’t do that. Robbery and rape of the nun/desecration are two separate things.
Prime Minister Modi has condemned the incidents.
Yes, he went to the Church event in Delhi and made a statement, but his people are doing the opposite. I don’t know how simple it is. Mohan Bhagwat does a googly on Mother Teresa to divert attention of the people from the burning land acquisition issue. Kolkata has political nuances. The heightened polarisation of the community by the Sangh Parivar has led to such events. The Mamata Banerjee government cannot be absolved of the failure of protecting the minorities and law and order in the state. I don’t know where it will all end. The focus has shifted from the Muslims to the Christians because they know the Muslims will react differently.
In fact, there is a connection between all the incidents that are taking place from attacks on freedom of expression, like in Chennai where writer Perumal Murugan was humiliated, to the right to exist.
So, how do you see these current attacks on churches and nuns, going forward?
The year 1998 was a watershed for the Christian community. We consolidated ourselves as a force but then after the JD government/BJP combine lost we became complacent. We will face the situation as it comes. We will hold peaceful protests. Violence does not serve any purpose. We will also engage other communities to take a stand as a long-term political platform, to preserve the unity, sanctity and pluralism of the nation and defend the Constitution. These are fearful but exciting times to get ourselves organised to agitate.
What’s your take on the beef ban in Maharashtra. Isn’t it a violation of our fundamental rights?
Yes, beef ban is a violation of our fundamental rights. No government has a right to interfere in what we eat or wear. Governments must be involved in governance issues and spend time to redress the problems of its citizens. (As told to Olga Tellis)
(First Published in Deccan Chronicle)
(As told to Olga Tellis)