DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:25 PM) – The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party of India, is trying to woo Indian Christians into voting for it by promising free pilgrimages to the holy sites in Jerusalem if the party breaks through further in upcoming elections.
The BJP made the promise specifically in regards to the many Christians living in the province of Nagaland, in the north-east of India. BJP leaders contesting the upcoming elections in the state promised Christian voters that if the BJP comes to power in the regional administration, Christians would get a free trip to Jerusalem.
Ironically, the statement comes only a week after the national government in New Delhi, led by prime minister and BJP member Narendra Modi and dominated by the Hindu nationalists, scrapped all subsidies being given to the much larger Indian Muslim community to sponser the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The situation is further aggravated by the fact that while over 14% of Indians are Muslim, making Islam the second biggest religion in the nation, Christians make up only around 2% of the subcontinent’s population.
The promise to give free tickets to Christian pilgrims was also not well received by radical Hindu pressure groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has criticised the BJP for “appeasing Christians”.
The Bharatiya Janta Party’s decision to reach out so openly to Nagaland’s Christians comes right after a call by the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) that asked Indian Christians not to vote for any BJP candidated during elections, stating that the Hindu nationalists had enabled the “worst persecution of minority communities from 2015 to 2017.”