A controversial Hindu leader has called for Christians to leave India in a video that shows a group stomping on images of Pope Francis.
The video, posted on 26 May, shows Om Swami Maharaj and a group of around 20 people carrying placards and banners with pictures of Pope Francis, near the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi, reported Catholic news site UCAN.
In the video, the Hindu leader accuses Indian Christians of promoting terrorism and Maoism and demands that they leave India. He adds that if they do not do so voluntarily, they will be expelled.
Christian groups in India have reported the video to police, asking them to stop its circulation.
Jaideep Prasad, inspector general of police in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state, told UCAN that his officers would “not allow anyone to spread discord among people with such videos”, but the video has not yet been taken down.
According to Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, the timing of the video is connected to a pastoral letter issued by Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, which was criticised by the leaders of the governing Hindu nationalist BJP, who said it brought into question the “patriotism” of Indian Christians.
Last week, speakers at a conference marking four years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government called for concerted action to uphold the country’s constitution and fundamental rights.
Professor Ganesh Narayan Devy, a scholar on India’s religious and linguistic diversity, said that in the current climate, anyone expressing a view contrary to Hindu nationalism was deemed “anti-national”.
The conference also heard how 2017 saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of atrocities against Christians.