MUMBAI, India – A formal complaint has been filed against Archbishop George Antonysamy of Madras-Mylapore in India, alleging an attempt to sway voters using religious sentiments during the country’s national elections.

According to The CommuneMag, the complaint in particular raises concerns about an editorial published by Antonysamy in The New Leader magazine affiliated with the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The magazine operates under the umbrella of a public charitable trust, “The New Leader Foundation”, with Antonysamy serving as its president.

The editorial in question, titled “General Election 2024: Statement from Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council,” purportedly aimed to influence voter opinion by invoking religious sentiments and fear-mongering tactics.

In his guest editorial, Antonysamy spoke about India, its elected central government, and its citizens.

“There is an attempt to construct India as a mono-cultural nation denying the diversity of our country,” the archbishop writes.

“[T]oday’s Union Government is destroying this diversity and imposing the ideology of one religion, one language, and one culture on us. And along with fascist ideologies of a single party, single leadership, non-opposition India, it is overturning the very democratic philosophy of India,” he adds.

“Christians and Muslims are branded as anti-nationals and their fundamental rights such as the right to worship, places of worship, and religious celebrations are under attack. Our freedom of religion is being curtailed in the name of Anti Conversion Bill under the false accusation that Christians are proselytizing.”

He also adds, “The government has tried to impose communal law on us in the name of common civil code.”

His guest editorial further talks about Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, a prominent human rights activist who died in prison in 2021. The priest was jailed Oct. 9, 2020, after being arrested by the National Investigation Agency, India’s premier anti-terror agency, at his home in Ranchi.

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The archbishop spoke about how media has come “under the clutches of ruling union government,“ how opposition members are thrown out, how southern states are “neglected” in tax distribution, how state rights are being attacked without “even giving compensation we are entitled to during natural calamities” and that the EC, investigative bodies, courts are under “control of the government.“

In his editorial, Antonysamy says all Christians must vote to “protect this land in a way that ensures religious faith and human rights of all people.” He also asks the readers to “reject sectarian parties” and calls to the people to “vote together with the majority of the people such as non-religious, democratic forces, marginalised people, backward, downtrodden, tribal people and workers.”

The writers of CommuneMag say the archbishop’s editorial “looks like it has been written by a DMK member,” referring to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, which governs Tamil Nadu.

In India’s ongoing elections, the country’s ruling India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to gain a toehold.

The BJP, which has ruled India since 2014, has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.

Religious minorities have complained of increased harassment since the party took charge. Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of “forced conversion,” and several states of passed anti-conversion laws.

The CommuneMag accuses organizations falling under the purview of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore of violating the country’s election law.

“The Archdiocese appears to be engaging in blatant practices aimed at influencing elections and undermining the democratic process,” the newspaper says.

“There have been calls for immediate and decisive action to investigate the Archdiocese’s alleged activities and requests to hold those guilty accountable for violating the law,” it continues.

The Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF) has raised the matter with the Election Commission of India.

“The said article was published with the ultimate intention of influencing the voters to vote on religious lines. Misusing their position of eminence within the Church, the Bishop’s Council has made a blatant attempt to polarize voters on religious lines. Serious action needs to be taken against the Bishop’s Council and the Archdiocese of Mylapore Madras,“ the newspaper said.

“LRPF also alleged that the Bishop’s Council and Archdiocese of Mylapor-Madras are receiving huge amounts of funds arising out of vast endowments made in the past for various benefactors to further the Christian faith. They apparently control several FCRA-registered organizations receiving foreign funds from abroad,” CommuneMag reported.

Catholic groups in India fear the BJP will gain even more power after this year’s election, further eroding the country’s traditional religious freedom.