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Anti-Christian violence in India

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Anti-Christian violence in India refers to religiously-motivated violence against Christians in India, usually perpetrated by Hindu nationalists.The acts of violence include arson of churches, re-conversion of Christians to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.[1][2].According to some, the number of incidents of anti-Christian violence has multiplied since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began its rule in March 1998.[2]


"In short, the most common rationale offered for violence against Christians in India, namely that the community is growing at an alarming rate through forced conversions, is absurd and has been decisively rejected by the print media and the world of scholarship. Even if the allegations made by Hindu extremists were true, they cannot be offered as an excuse for violence against another religious community."
— Vinay Lal, professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles[1]

A rationale offered for violence against Christians in India is that the community is growing at an alarming rate through forced conversions. It is frequently alleged that Christian Missionaries malign Hinduism, offer beef (cow beef is illegal in India), convert poor lower caste & tribal Hindus on economic & social basis; by luring them with money, cycles, jobs, claiming magic heals, and even false stories, like Jesus was Krishna's friend, & the latter sent him to spread new religion. It is also said that Partisan politics and the Hindu awakening by various Hindu organizations contribute to anti-Christian violence.

From 1964 to 1996, 38 incidents of violence against Christians were reported. In 1997, 24 such incidents were reported. Since 1998, Christians in India have faced a wave of violence.[3] In 1998 alone, 90 incidents were reported.[1]

The Sangh Parivar and related organisations have stated that the violence is an expression of "spontaneous anger" of "vanvasis" against "forcible conversion" activities undertaken by missionaries,[1][4][5]


Incidents of violence against Christians have occurred in nearly all parts of India, it has largely been confined to north, central, and western India, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the capital area of New Delhi – not coincidentally, while these areas have been under BJP rule.[1]

In June 2000, four churches around India were bombed. In Andhra Pradesh, church graves were desecrated. A church in Maharashtra was ransacked.[1] In September 2008, two churches were partly damaged in Kerala.[6][7] Christian leaders described the events of September 2008 as deliberate acts by anti-socials and denied any religious motive in the attacks.[8]


The 2008 wave of attacks against Christians in Karnataka includes attacks directed against Christian churches and prayer halls in Karnataka by the Bajrang Dal, with the ruling BJP government accused of involvement. The violence started from 14 September 2008 when about 20 churches were vandalized in Mangalore, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, and in other districts of Karnataka. Minor violence was later reported from the border state of Kerala. The continuing distribution of literature depicting Hindu gods in a vulgar fashion by the New Light Church, a fringe proselytizer group ignited the retaliation.


In a well-publicised case, Graham Staines, an Australian Christian missionary was burnt to death along with his two sons Timothy (aged 9) and Philip (aged 7), while they were sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Orissa in January 1999. He was running the Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj, an Australian missionary society.[2] His "distribution of beef & desecrating Hindu Deities" was the root cause of this attack. In [2003, Dara Singh was convicted of leading the gang responsible.[9]

After Staines' murder, outbreak of violence started on 24 December 2007 at Bamunigam village of Kandhamal District. Some Hindu activists forcefully removed a Christmas decoration, put up on a site traditionally used by Hindus during Durga Puja.

In August 2008, Swami Lakshmanananda, a Hindu monk and spiritual leader, was attacked and killed. The violence that followed resulted in the death of one Christian and two Hindus. The violence later spread to 300 villages in 14 of the 30 districts in the state, resulting in 4,400 burnt houses and 50,000 homeless. Fifty-nine people were killed, while 18,000 were injured.


In 1997 in Gujarat, 22 churches were burnt or destroyed, and another 16 damaged.[1] Recently, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on Christians. A Hindu group claims to have converted 2,000 tribal Christians to Hinduism. The attackers had vandalized places of worship and thus caused strike terror among the tribals. On 18 September, the Central Government issued an advisory under Article 355 of the constitution to the Orissa government along with Karnataka.[10][11]


Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are the most accused Hindu organizations for violence against Christians in India.[2] Sangh Parivar and local media were involved in promoting anti-Christian propaganda in Gujrat.[2] It is evident from the ruling BJP governments in Gujarat, Orissa and Karnataka that serious lapses in handling the violence against minorities as the police failed to solve the issue effectively and the BJP was found directly responsible for allowing bloodshed to spread.[12][13]


US State Department

In its annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians."[14] The report on anti-Christian violence listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. The incidents listed in the report were attributed to local media reports and information gathered by Christian groups in India, and was not independently verified.[14]

National Commission for Minorities

In light of recent Anti-Christian violence in Karnataka by the Bajrang Dal activists, the National Commission for Minorities have said that the Karnataka government of serious lapses in handling the situation and they found directly responsible for allowing violence to spread, and said the police failed to solve the issue effectively as the violence continues. They also clarified that there were no reported complaints of forced conversion registered in the state.[12][13]

National Integration Council of India

On 13 October 2008, the National Integration Council of India called a special meeting chaired by Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India and raised the voice against spreading anti-Christian violence in India. The Prime minister strongly condemned the violence supported by the hands of Hindu militant Hindu organizations such as Bajrang Dal, VHP etc.[15] The prime minister had earlier publicly admitted that the ongoing violence against the Christian communities was a matter of great "national shame". [16]

Pope Benedict XVI

On 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI criticized the continuing Anti-Christian violence in India.

On 28 October, the Vatican called upon the memory of Mahatma Gandhi for an end to the religious violence in Orissa. In a written address to Hindus, the Vatican office said Christian and Hindu leaders needed to foster a belief in non-violence among followers. The Pope has been criticised for an error here because the Mahatma had been very strong in his opposition to conversion.[17][18][19]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Vinay Lal. "Anti-Christian Violence in India". Manas: India and Its Neighbors. UCLA College of Letters and Science. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Anti-Christian Violence on the Rise in India". Human Rights Watch. September 29, 1999. 
  3. "Pope Lands in India Amid Rise in Anti-Christian Violence". 
  4. Low, Alaine M.; Brown, Judith M.; Frykenberg, Robert Eric (eds.) (2002). Christians, Cultural Interactions, and India's Religious Traditions. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans. pp. 134. ISBN 0-7007-1601-7. 
  5. Subba, Tanka Bahadur; Som, Sujit; Baral, K. C (eds.) (2005). Between Ethnography and Fiction: Verrier Elwin and the Tribal Question in India. New Delhi: Orient Longman. ISBN 8125028129. 
  7. "Police recover bike used during church attacks". 
  9. The Staines case verdict V. Venkatesan, Frontline Magazine, Oct 11-23, 2003
  10. "Gujarat : More anti-Christian violence". 
  11. "Hindu extremists convert 2,000 Christians in India". 
  12. 12.0 12.1 NCM blames Bajrang Dal for Karnataka, Orissa violence Press Trust of India - September 21, 2008
  13. 13.0 13.1 Udupi: No case of forcible conversion- Qureshi, Mangalorean.Com, Sept. 17, 2008
  14. 14.0 14.1 "US rights report slams India for anti-Christian violence". 1999-02-27. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 

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