Retired Indian Christian Police Officer Julio Ribeiro Pens Editorial on Why He Feels Threatened In His Native Country

( [email protected] ) Mar 17, 2015 11:55 AM EDT
Retired Indian Police Officer Julio Ribeiro
Julio Ribeiro served as Director General of Police, Punjab, at the height of Sikh terrorism in the mid-80s. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

Julio Ribeiro, a retired and highly-decorated police officer and Christian who fought terrorist groups in the 1980s in India, now feels threatened in his own country. He expressed his thoughts in a newspaper column on Monday.

According to Rama Lakshmi of the Washington Post, Ribeiro argued that recent attacks on Christian institutions in India made him felt like he was on a "hit list" of conservative Hindu groups. His editorial column was published in the Indian Express.

"There was a time, not very long ago - one year short of 30, to be precise - when only a Christian was chosen to go to Punjab to fight what then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi termed 'the nation's battle' against separatists," Ribeiro wrote. "I had accepted a 'demotion' from secretary in the Union home ministry to DGP of the state of Punjab at the personal request of the prime minister."

However, despite his valiant efforts to fight separatists in India, Ribeiro contended that times have changed since then.

"Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country," Ribeiro wrote. "The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend [has] now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practicing a religion that is different from theirs."

Ribeiro argued that the increased persecution of Christians in India came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP rose to power in the government last May. He noted that "these peaceful people" were being systematically targeted.

"It is tragic that these extremists have been emboldened beyond permissible limits by an atmosphere of hate and distrust," Ribeiro wrote. "The Christian population, a mere 2 percent of the total populace, has been subjected to a series of well-directed body blows."

The retired police officer elaborated on what Christians have contributed to India's culture, adding that they "have consistently punched above their weight."

"Many schools, colleges, related establishments that teach skills for jobs have been set up and run by Christians. They are much in demand," Ribeiro wrote. "Even diehard Hindus have sought admission in such centers of learning and benefited from the commitment and sincerity of Christian teachers."

Lakshmi reported that both Hindu revivalist leaders and a few of Modi's colleagues wanted Christians to convert back to the Hindu faith in a "homecoming" campaign. They argued that Mother Teresa's social work was a ploy to convert Hindus.

"The outburst of Mohan Bhagwat against Mother Teresa, an acknowledged saint - acknowledged by all communities and peoples - has put me back on the hit list," Ribeiro wrote.

However, Ribeiro expressed hope that all religions in India, including the dominant Hindu faith, may continue to get along. He noted that some Hindus "still remember my small contribution to the welfare of the country of our birth."

"It warmed the cockles of my heart that ordinary Hindus, not known to me, still thought well of me and would like to be friends 25 years after my retirement, when I could not directly serve them," Ribeiro wrote. "It makes me hope that ordinary Hindu men and women will not be swayed by an ideology that seeks to spread distrust and hate with consequences that must be avoided at all cost."

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