Group: Anti-Christian Hate Campaigns Fuel Persecution in India

Hindu extremist groups have actively been campaigning against Christians in India for close to a decade, yet there is little the Indian Government has done to check what continues to fuel the country's worst incidents of religious persecution, affirmed a U.S.-based human rights watchdog on Tuesday.

"Often, reporting on Christian persecution in India tends to focus on the incidents, and not the causes, of persecution. Rarely do we see the big picture – that Hindu ultra-nationalists who believe that to be Indian means to be Hindu are taking advantage of the uneducated and waging a hate-filled propaganda campaign against Christians," reported International Christian Concern (ICC).

"Most recently, Hindu extremist groups Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagruti Samiti distributed thousands of anti-Christian leaflets in Chitradurga district in the southern state of Karnataka last month," the Washington-based group added.

That campaign reportedly resulted in an incident on Aug. 5, when at least 50 extremists attacked more than 10 workers during the dedication of a new church in Sira area between Tumkur and Chitradurga districts.

Furthermore, on Aug. 16, the victimized Christian workers were arrested on charges of "forcible conversion."

"The trend of launching venomous propaganda campaigns that incite physical attacks against the Christian minority came to fore in 1998 when the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political arm of the chief Hindu extremist organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), graduated from a party on the margins to a mainstream and ruling party in India," the ICC stated.

Soon after the BJP's accession to power, there was a spate of violence against Christians from Christmas Day 1998, lasting until Jan. 3 1999, in the Dangs district of Gujarat state.

The attacks ranged from the killing of priests and the raping of nuns to the physical destruction of Christian schools, churches, colleges, and cemeteries.

Hundreds of Christians were also forced to "reconvert" to Hinduism, ICC has reported.

And outbreaks of violence, such as the one in Dangs, are not isolated incidents, the persecution watchdog insisted, but are typical examples of how anti-Christian violence are organized in various parts of the country.

According to a report by ICC, "Politics by Other Means: Attacks against Christians in India," the extremist group Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) obtained permission to hold a rally on Dec. 25, 1998, in Ahwa town in the Dangs district.

Over 4,000 people participated in the rally, shouting anti-Christian slogans while the police stood by and watched. After the rally, the attacks began on Christian places of worship, schools run by missionaries, and shops owned by Christians.

In another incident, reported by the U.K.-based Christian Today newspaper, Hindu villagers gang-raped two Christian women with the encouragement of a village chief after their families refused to denounce Christianity on May 28, 2006, in Nadia village in Madhya Pradesh state's Khargone district.

ICC research has noted that hate campaigns attract several local laws, and yet the media, local and international, the state and federal governments in India as well as international organizations have a tendency to take note only of "violent incidents" while failing to address the backdrop against which such incidents take place.

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