Indian Christians under Fire
In the last couple of decades, India has portrayed itself as a bastion of religious freedom where every religion is not only tolerated but also allowed to flourish. However, in reality, on the ground, the space for religious minorities has been shrinking ever since the British left the sub-continent. After the RSS backed BJP came to power in 2014, the minority persecution has picked up the pace and has been since steadily on the rise every year. Although Muslims in Indian, being the largest minority group, are being targeted the most and subsequently get the most attention. Nonetheless, Anti-Christian violence in India is also not far behind in magnitude. More and more incidents of forced conversions, arson of churches, sexual and physical violence assaults, and destruction of Christian hospitals, colleges and schools, and murder of priests are being reported every day. As of this day, the US Commission of International Religious Freedom (USIRF) has given India ranking of 2nd tier for minority persecution along with war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hindu fundamentalists see Christianity as a threat to their Hindu religion and due to this Hindus have never sanctioned the proselytizing religion. In 2000, Hindu fundamentalists burnt alive Graham Staines, an Australian Christian missionary, along with his two young sons. In 2008, Hindu fundamentalists unleashed another wave of violent terror on the Christian population in Orissa. They attacked the Sunday services, raped the nuns, burnt down several churches and attacked the Christian congregations. Hundreds of Christians were killed in Orissa and many folds were forced to flee their homes for shelter. Since Modi’s rise to power, it seems that Hindu fundamentalists have been completely unshackled to target Christians. Every week now brings new tidings of unbelievable horrific violence towards Christians by the RSS goons of Modi’s party. A recent 67-page report by Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India titled “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India” highlighted numerous incidents of violence towards Christians at the hands of Hindu fanatics.
India’s founders at the time of its independence rejected the idea of a Hindu state and instead declared it a secular polity. India’s constitution has provisions for safeguarding against religious persecution of minorities. However, under Modi’s fascism, all these constitutional provisions have been disregarded completely, and now Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Dalit minorities are being subjected to extreme violence with impunity. Nobel Laureate from India, Amartya Sen, while blaming Modi’s BJP government for the situation has termed these brutalities as “the biggest blot on Indian democracy.”
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, also known as Congressional Human Rights Caucus, in its report before the US senate’s standing committee highlighted the plight of minorities and the atrocities of the Hindu majority. The report stated that “BJP policies during Modi’s first term have deepened communal tensions in some BJP governed states.” Hindu groups have never accepted minorities as a separate and distinct culture but instead, they have been calling for the Hinduization of Minorities. Professor Balraj Madhok, a Hindu fanatic, has suggested changing the names of minorities to a Hindu one. In India, school courses are being Hinduized, references of Hindu gods are being inserted in books. Books contain false stories of Muslim and Christian atrocities on the Hindu population. Christmas celebrations in recent years have also become problematic, Hindu vigilantes roam the streets on Christmas and target the community members who are celebrating.
Why is this violence increasing by the day and why nothing is being done to prevent this as it jeopardizes the whole Indian state? The simple answer to these questions is the short-sighted political benefits coupled with ruling regimes deep-rooted hatred for minorities. Modi himself has been involved in Killing hundreds of Muslims in his state of Gujrat when he was the chief minister. Afterward, Modi used government machinery to dispose of evidence regarding the case and therefore consequently 70 people involved in Gujarat pogrom were set free. Modi’s cabinet ministers regularly issue threats to minority communities on pressers and tv interviews. Several human rights organizations have asked the Indian government to adopt an inclusive message and approach towards minorities but so far the situation has only spiraled downward.
The second reason for this rise in violence is the preference of the economy over human rights by the world powers. The US, that previously denied Modi visa due to Gujrat pogrom, suddenly turned friendly when Modi became the prime minister in 2014. European Union has also ignored the plight of Christians and Muslims in India just to gain access to India’s economic market.
According to the report of the Open Doors organization in 2016, after Modi’s rise, Christian persecution in Indian sharply increased. The reason for this rise is Modi’s Anti-minority rhetoric for political gains. In 2019, Modi won a majority with 303 seats for his party but the victory came at a very significant cost for minorities. During the election campaign, Modi regularly delivered his ultra-nationalist and anti-minority message. After the election, it was believed that Modi will try to find some inclusive ground to take the country forward. However, that seems not to be the case and instead, Modi has decided to double down on minority prosecution. Modi has kept Kashmiri Muslims in jail-like conditions for more than 70 days now. On northern borders, Modi is declaring Christians and Muslims illegal citizens. Every day Hindu cow vigilantes are lynching people. The world needs to take notice of the plight of Indian minorities and ask the Indian government to adopt an inclusive approach to fulfil its duty to protect the minorities. If the world chooses to ignore, the minority situation in India is expected to keep getting worse. This will have adverse consequences for the peace of the whole region and the world.