By ICC's India Correspondent
International Christian Concern
As feared by many religious minorities in India, intimidations and attacks from the Sangh Parivar (Hindu nationalist movement) have escalated under the Bharathiya Janatha Party's (BJP) rule. Hindu radicals are now outright targeting Christians all across the country as a direct consequence of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) assuming power. It won't be too long until this dangerous situation, made evident by the violent and widespread strategy of the Sangh Parivar, moves closer to the ultimate goal of the Sangh Parivar, India becoming a Hindu nation.
The right wing political party BJP, backed by the Sangh Parivar, achieved a landslide victory in India's recent general elections that concluded two months ago. Since their rise to power, attacks on religious minorities across India has increased.
Included in this wave of religious violence, a church in Uttar Pradesh (UP) was rampaged when a mob of Hindu radicals belonging to the Bajrangdal, a Hindu nationalist group, spitefully attacked the Christians. The attack took place while the Christians were having the Bible study on July 16 at around 2:30 p.m. in Sahakarinagar village in UP. A group of 25 Hindu radicals led by Hemanth Singh stormed into the church and beat Rev. R. C. Paul and other Christians gathered for the Bible study. The radicals gave no reason for their assault on the Christians during the attack.
The assailants used wooden lathies (clubs) and fists to beat the Christians, causing internal injuries. After attacking the Christians gathered at the church, they went up to the church's roof and desecrated the cross. After desecrating the cross, the group installed a saffron flag in place of cross. They also destroyed the church's musical instruments and pulpit as well as tearing apart Bibles and other Christian literature they found in the church.
Rev. Dinesh Sohil, another pastor who came to the aid of attacked Christians, was badly beaten and was taken to a local hospital for immediate treatment.
Rev. R. C. Paul who has been in charge of the church since 1991 said, "We were shaken and are very scared of the situation in the area. We are concerned of our safety, even going alone outside looks very dangerous at the moment. But," he continued, "We are encouraged by receiving so many phone calls and visits by [our] Christian brethren." He added, "If God is for us who can be against us."
Later, when Rev. R. C. Paul filed a complaint at the police station, the police arrested 12 suspected members of the group who attacked the church. Later, two more Bajrangdal leaders were arrested and were sent to jail for their involvement in the attack. Following the arrests, Bajrangdal activists staged a protest demanding the release of the people who led the attack on Christians.
In another incident in UP, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that on July 7 a church in a village called Saraiya was also attacked by members of Shiv Sena, another Hindu nationalist group, and BJP. The local BJP leader, Harendra Pratap Singh, and the leader of the local Shiv Sena, Acche Lal Tiwari, were spotted leading this attack. When the local Christians of Saraiya attempted to report the incident to the police, the police took the pastor and 11 other Christians into custody.
Chhattisgarh, one of India's eastern states, has also recently seen cases of violations of Christians' right to religious freedom. An aggressive campaign led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), yet another Hindu nationalist group, has led to a ban on the entry of and propagation of any non-Hindu religion by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians, in more than 50 villages of Chhattisgarh's Bastar region in the last six months.
According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar District President of the VHP, "Over 50 gram panchayats (village councils) in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all 'non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.'"
Since BJP's rise to power, many Hindu nationalist groups have made clear their Hindutva agenda in both word and deed. The influence these groups have on the BJP-led government will likely continue to make Hindu radicals more aggressive, terrorizing India's minorities, particularly Christians. Will the pluralistic and secular fabric of India fraying under this wave of religious violence, many Christians in India are wondering how long until they see a 'Hindu India.'
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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