Manipur church burnings have sparked a heated debate in the European Parliament, where an emergency session is being held in Strasbourg.
The discussion has been met with opposition from India, particularly the Hindu nationalist BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has employed lobbyists in Europe to silence the debate.
The debate was triggered by 13 weeks of ethnically-based violence in Manipur, a troubled state in northeastern India. The European Parliament has received detailed reports of attacks on Christians, revealing that 564 incidents of burnings have occurred since May 3. These attacks targeted various Christian institutions, including churches, schools, seminaries, and ministers’ homes. The affected structures include 263 churches belonging to the Kuki-Zo tribe, 93 Kuki Christian buildings, and 238 churches belonging to Christians from the Meitei ethnic group, reportedly destroyed by Hindu Meitei nationalists.
Six political groups in the European Parliament have submitted resolutions, which will be voted on the following day. The Left Group, represented by Spanish MEP Miguel Urbán Crespo, has criticized the Indian authorities’ response to minority groups in India, accusing them of exacerbating ethnic divisions and promoting hatred against minorities without consequences.
The European Peoples Party (Christian Democrats) has tabled a resolution, led by Croatian MEP Željana Zovko and supported by 12 others, urging the Indian authorities to take all necessary measures to halt religious violence. They also call for the protection of religious minorities, including the Christian community in Manipur, and the prevention of further escalation.
Caroline Duffield of the persecution charity Open Doors commented on the resolutions, stating that both sides of the conflict have seen attacks on Christian communities, regardless of their ethnicity. She emphasized that the conflict cannot be reduced solely to ethnic tensions.
The Green group’s resolution, presented by Alviina Alametsä, draws attention to allegations of serious human rights abuses committed by military and state security forces, who enjoy impunity for their actions.
The Indian government has responded by employing lobbyists ahead of the debate to counter the resolutions. Caroline Duffield highlighted the Delhi government’s active efforts, stating that they are not taking the issue lightly. She noted the embarrassment caused by the timing of the debate coinciding with Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France for Bastille Day celebrations on July 14. The Indian government is concerned that the debate may cast a shadow over India’s international image.
The emergency debate in the European Parliament highlights the gravity of the situation in Manipur and the international community’s interest in addressing religious violence and protecting minority rights in India. The outcome of the resolutions and the subsequent actions taken by the European Parliament and the Indian government will be closely watched by advocates for religious freedom and human rights worldwide.