Church Attacks Not Political, Indian Government Says

India's Prime Minster Modi shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama.
India's Prime Minster Modi shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama. (Reuters)

India's Hindu nationalist government has denied that "communal" politics were behind a series of attacks on churches and the rape of a nun in recent months, as it seeks to quell rising concerns among religious minorities.

"We have found that all these incidents were law and order problems. Not a single case was carried out by the majority community ... nor was it of political nature or communal," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the NDTV news channel late on Tuesday.

Since December, half a dozen churches have been vandalized, during a period when hardline Hindu groups have campaigned to convert members of "foreign religions" such as Islam and Christianity to Hinduism. 

Four Bangladeshi citizens were arrested by local police in the eastern state of West Bengal in connection with the rape of the nun and robbery at a convent last month.

Jaitley's comments come after Christian leaders accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Modi's government of not doing enough to protect their religion.

Several Christians and Muslim organizations have launched protests against what they see as a growing climate of hatred and distrust against Indians who are not Hindu.

In France last week, Modi reiterated his commitment to religious tolerance.

Some of his political allies are less open-minded. Last week, members of a regional political party that is part of Modi's coalition government demanded that voting rights of Muslims should be scrapped.

Jaitley rejected the divisive idea floated by the regional ally, Shiv Sena. "Such statements are extremely offensive and these irresponsible remarks hurt the government's real agenda," of economic development, he said.

Muslims make up India's largest minority, about 14 percent of the 1.27 billion population.

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved. 

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