Christians asked to take part in politicsNovember 17th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS
Bhopal, Nov 17 (IANS) As Madhya Pradesh goes to the polls Nov 27, Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal has called for greater involvement of Christians in politics though many others in the community feel the elections would make little difference to them.Christians represent one per cent of the state’s six crore (60 million) population.
“Our voice is not heard in the process of decision-making as we are not involved in politics,” Archbishop Cornelio told IANS.
“Had it not been so, there would not have been 171 attacks on our priests and religious places in the five years since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the state,” he said.
The Christian community, which is up against militant Hindu outfits and the BJP government in the face of a spurt in attacks on them, however, does not feel its involvement can make much difference.
This is because not a single member of the community was elected to the state assembly in the 2003 elections and they do not expect the situation to change.
“Other minority communities like Sikhs have a substantial political representation despite their minuscule presence in the state as compared to Christians but we have no representation at all,” says a community leader.
Though the Christian population in the state is less than their national average, the community does have a sizeable presence in cities like Jabalpur, Indore and Bhopal apart from the western region of the state, especially Jhabua and adjoining areas.
“We are annoyed as the community finds itself voiceless and the Congress has not given ticket to any tribal Christian, especially from Jhabua. We have to have our own political voice, otherwise we cannot survive,” says Indira Iyengar, president of the Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh Christian Forum.
“The tribal Christians have suffered the most during the attacks on the community. We urged the Congress to field tribal Christian leaders, but to no avail,” she said.
“The Congress has announced the candidature of Ratnesh Solomon but he is not a tribal Christian. Now, I think that the time has come to explore and test new options like the Bahujan Samaj Party.”
“This may indirectly help the BJP but we have already suffered for our blind support to the Congress,” said Iyengar.
She said her Forum recommended the names of some young tribal leaders to the Congress for tickets for the Thandla, Petlawad and Jhabua seats, but it was turned down. As against this, the BSP has fielded a community member, Lata Edwin, for the Jhabua seat.
Muttungal, the spokesman of Catholic Church for MP and Chhattisgarh, said with as many as 171 attacks on Christians in the state, Madhya Pradesh happened to be the second among all states in the country to have seen the most number of attacks on the community.
“There appears to be a political vacuum and though Christians have traditionally voted for the Congress, the lack of tough action on perpetrators of communal violence is worrying the community,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any enthusiasm and many will not even exercise their right to vote.”
Christians have a substantial presence in nearly a dozen assembly constituencies spread over urban areas of Madhya Pradesh apart from some constituencies in rural areas of western MP.