Country Conditions: Persecution Of Christians In India
The Republic of India, popularly referred to as India is a South Asian country with over 1,350,000,000(estimated), making it the second-most populous nation in the world after China. India is well known for its large landmass which places it as the seventh-largest country by area. The country is a federal state practicing a parliamentary system of government governed under the Constitution of India. Known for being the world's most populous democratic state, it officially identifies as "a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic," according to the 1971 amendment of the Constitution.
As a secular state, it is a multi-religious country with major religions including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Each of them respectively accounted for 79.8%, 14.2%, 2.3%, 1.7%, 0.7%, and 0.4%. Other religious bodies account for 0.65% and people not affiliated with any religion make up 0.23% of the population.
If India then is a secular state with no official religion, why are Christians persecuted? Who is responsible for the persecution of the Christian faithful? Does the government of India have a hand in the persecution of Christians? What has the Indian Republic done concerning the persecution of Christians?
These are some questions that this article attempts to find answers to.
The Rise Of Christian Persecution In India
Christians in India enjoyed relative peace and lived in harmony with their Hindu neighbors until the later part of the 1990s. Violence against Christians increased significantly with the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) as the ruling party of India in 1998. The violent attacks on Christians worsened with the reemergence of the BJP in 2014 as the ruling party. Since this period, Christian religious faithful has suffered from an increasing loss of lives and properties, assault, rape, forceful conversion, and public humiliation.
These violent acts against Christians have been largely blamed on the Bharatiya Janata Party and affiliates. Historical precedence also categorizes the BJP to be more tolerant of anti-Christian incited violence than the Indian National Congress. The major body connected to the BJP responsible for this violence is the Sangh Parivar organizations housing the Bajrang Dal, Vishva Hindu Parishad(VHP), and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS).
What started as communal violence to be exploited for political gains, has become a full-blown war against Christians. The Hindu nationalists inciting this violence support their stance by claiming that India has suffered much from the hands of Muslim rulers and the British rulers who were Christians. Hence, a fight to make India a Hindu religious state and exterminate foreign religious bodies. Also, the upper caste Hindu loyalists who constitute a minority fear a destabilization of the caste system. They see Christianity as a threat especially since its more prevalent amongst members of the middle and lower caste, which when the need arises can help the upper caste form a majority.
Hindu loyalists also fear the possible adverse effect that Christianity would have on the nation politically, culturally, and economically. Christianity in India has been known to boost the economic independence of its faithful through its teaching and educational system. Antichristian violence has been focused on keeping minority and lower caste communities in a state of economic dependence. These attacks are also targeted at discouraging a tip in the electoral scale in favor of Christians.
In 2008, the Indian National Commission for Minorities ruled that state governments in India ruled by BJP assisted the organizers of these violent attacks.
Plights Of Christians In India
Notable among the anti-Christian violence are; the 1998 anti-Christian attacks in southeastern Gujarat, 1999 Ranalai attacks, 2007 Kandhamal Christmas attacks, 2008 Kandhamal violence, and the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Southern Karnataka. While these are the major organized violence against Christians, they are not the only ones. In many cases, the police are used to disrupt church services and meetings. Attacks are mostly carried out on Sundays and holy days such as Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter, and Christmas.
These attacks have given rise to the destruction of thousands of Christian homes, places of worship, and other institutions. Thousands have been killed in these attacks including laypeople and clerics. Notwithstanding those burnt alive and the thousands turned homeless in the process.
At one time, a nun was gang-raped and paraded in the streets naked. Children also were not left out of the violence as some were once kidnapped on their way to a Christian children's camp.
On January 26, during a Christian service in Indore city, a large number of men entered a church while worshippers were singing a hymn to disrupt the worship. They demanded to know what they were singing, while they beat both men and women, and frightened children. When the police came to the scene, rather than arresting the perpetrators of violence, they arrested and jailed the church pastors and elders, who were yet to recover from the beatings they received.
The Indian government has reportedly done little or nothing to alleviate the widespread violence against Christians. Besides, BJP ruled state governments reportedly aid these perpetrators of violence.