Christian churches in India have applauded the upset election victory last month of the secularist India National Congress Party over the National Democratic Alliance, which is known for its Hindu-first message. After Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress Party, declined to accept the prime minister’s job, the post went to a Sikh, the country’s first minority-faith prime minister.
In their long struggle for equality, India’s dalits, or “untouchables,” have often exchanged their Hinduism for Islam, Christianity, Sikhism or Buddhism, believing that they will better their lives by doing so. They have been persuaded that Hinduism, with its varna ashramas (caste distinctions), has been solely responsible for all their ills.
On February 27, an express train carrying more than 2,500 passengers and running four hours late drew up at the Godhra railway station on the Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh border in Central India. It was a little after seven in the morning.