Indian Christians Plan Demonstration in Response to Escalating Violence

Christian groups in India plan to march on the country's parliament on Thursday in protest against the killing of two pastors and half a dozen attacks on church targets in recent weeks. Many say the recent murders highlight a growing trend of violence against Christians in India’s southern states.

"It looks like we are facing a new cycle of violence," said Church of North India Bishop D. K Sahu, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, which groups 29 Orthodox and Protestant Churches.

In the last few weeks, the number of reported attacks against Christians across different denominations has escalated throughout the country.

According to reports, the recent wave of violence began Jan. 30, when Hindu activists forced their way into a large Christian gathering after hundreds of worshippers had come from towns and villages in India’s Uttar Pradesh state to take part in a prayer rally. The activists reportedly charged that rallies such as the prayer rally were aimed at conversions and that Christians lure the people with gifts of land, money, food and clothes.

In another reported incident of violence, the body of 25-year-old Pastor Narayan was found on Feb. 11 in a small town in Mysore district, Karnataka state. Sajan K. George, national convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told Compass News that the official report of the autopsy suggested it was a case of suicide. However, George suspects Hindu extremists were responsible for Narayan’s death and that their sympathizers are engaged in a cover-up.

“The body was taken for autopsy and before the official report was produced, the doctors said he was obviously brutally murdered,” George told Compass. “The body had broken ribs and teeth and injuries in the naval area.”

However, George said, “by the time the report came out, the body had already been cremated.”

During a recent interview with AsiaNews, Bishop Percival Fernandez—Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India—said the recent wave of violence against Christians in India is part "of a plan led by fundamentalist groups."

"Practically all of these incidents of violence against Christians are masterminded by fundamentalist groups,” Fernandez told the Italy-based news agency on Feb. 16.

In the most recent reported incident, activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal beat and robbed a group of 280 Christian students on Feb. 19 while the group was on its way to Emmanuel Mission’s graduation ceremony in Kota, India.

According to Compass, the attackers, led by Deputy Mayor Ravindra Singh Nirbhay of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also beat and robbed Emmanuel Mission students and drivers who had come to meet the guests arriving at the railway station from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Several victims sustained serious injuries. The attackers also damaged mission buses sent to receive the visitors.

Last week, six evangelical theology students were forcibly abducted and beaten on Feb. 13 in Kerala by activists of the RSS. On Friday, Gospel for Asia reported that police had arrested the five RSS men involved in the attack after a raid conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police.

Formed even before India's independence, the RSS serves as the armed wing of the BJP—the Hindu nationalist party that has been accused of being hostile to religious minorities. Sources say that RSS leaders call for "national reconstruction" and seek to establish "uncompromising devotion" to a purely Hindu nation.