Targetting Christian Minorities

Targetting Christian Minorities Human rights groups which monitor atrocities against Christians in India, have been recording regularly the cases of violence against Christians by Hindutva groups from all states. But they have largely been unnoticed in the media or even in the human rights circles.

In tune with the rising majorita-rianism the religious minorities are projected in adverse ways and Christians in particular are accused of conversion through force, fraud and allurement. A large section of Christians do feel intimidated. It is this trend which made Julio Reibero, the ex police officer who served the nation with distinction, state that “As a Christian suddenly I feel stranger in my own country”. Since the time he stated it way back in 2015, things are worsening at rapid pace.

Persecution Relief, a group monitoring anti Christian violence in India states in 2020 “The watchdog group recorded 293 incidents of anti-Christian persecution in the first six months of the year. Six of those cases resulted in murder. Two women were raped and killed for their faith, and another two women and a 10-year-old girl were raped for refusing to renounce Christianity. Uttar Pradesh “remained the most hostile state against Christians in India”, noted the report. Sixty-three hate crimes were reported there”.

According to its founder Shibu Thomas, these are just what they have records of; there may be many more cases that have gone unreported. Open Doors, another organisation working with local Churches points out, “Christians are persecuted in all areas of public and private life, and anti-conversion laws (currently in nine states, with more considering adoption) are abused to harass and intimidate Christians. Few people are actually convicted under these laws, but cases can drag on for years”. India figures in their list of 10 most dangerous places for Christians to live.

As Karnatka Government is planning to introduce ‘anti conversion laws’, it has already set up massive intelligence gathering exercise on the Churches and the Christian Congregations. At a rally in Sarguja district of Chatisgarh (1st October 2021) Swami Paramatmanand called for targeted killings of minorities involved in conversion work. This he stated in presence of leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party.

While the propaganda is made through various channels about missionary work of conversions, the population census tells a different tale. As per the census figures Indian Christian population was as follows: in 1971–2.60%, 1981–2.44%, 1991–2.34%, 2001–2.30% and in 2011 census 2.30%. It is projected as a foreign religion but it is very old Indian religion, its advent in India being marked with the coming of St. Thomas in AD 52 at Malabar Coast. The Christian missionaries, while some of them overtly claim their aim of converting the people, have been working in the arena of health care and education in the remote areas or among the poor dalit communities. The educational institutes set up by them are known for their quality education. There is a heavy competition for entrance into these institutions.

The anti-Christian tirade picked up in the decade of 1970s when the VHP and Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram extended their work in Adivasi areas. In Dangs in Gujarat: April-August, 1998 witnessed violence. Here Swami Aseemanand, who was accused of being part of various bomb blasts set up the Shabri mata temple and organised Shabri Kumbh. In Jhabua area of MP followers of Asaram Bapu (Now in jail) also organised similar congregation and the violence was witnessed in Jhabua (September 23, 1998). In Orissa Swami Laxamananand set up his work. Here Kandhmal violence of 2008 was seen. Prior to this Pastor Stains was murdered by the Dara Singh aka Rajendra Singh Pal, (1999) who was part of Bajrang Dal.

While the accusation on Pastor Stains was that he is converting gullible Adivasis into Christian fold the Wadhava Commission report which went into this ghastly murder concluded that he was neither involved in the work of conversion nor the population of Christians showed any statistical increase in Keonjhar, Manoharpur (Orissa), where he was working.

While freedom of religion is human and social right, it is also part of Indian Constitution. It is being challenged in practice through different mechanisms of assertion and that’s what is leading to constantly increasing violence against Christians and Muslims both.

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Vol. 54, No. 21, Nov 21 - 27, 2021