Hindu nationalists vandalised two Christian places of worship in the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Assam in the last two weeks, reports AsiaNews.
On 29 September a statue of Saint John Bosco, also known as Don Bosco, was desecrated in the city of Tezpur, Assam, northeast India. It is not yet known who the vandals were.
On 2 October a group of 50-60 people belonging to the Hindu radical Hindi Yuva Shakti Sangathan group attacked the Protestant church of Saint Thomas in Hinduism’s holy city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. They “vandalised the property and threatened the pastor with further violence if he did not stop making forced conversions,” Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews.
Uttar Pradesh experienced the highest number of violent attacks against Christians in any state – 26 – in the first half of 2018. Violence often follows on from accusations of “forced conversions”.
Meanwhile a group of 250 Indian rights activists presented an open letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he visited India during 1-3 October, reported UCAN.
In it they said that religious and political freedoms have decreased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power four years ago.
It echoes findings in a UN report in September that said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “has been linked to incidents of violence against members of Dalit, Muslim, tribal and Christian communities”.
Hindu extremist groups have been emboldened since the pro-Hindu BJP came to power with a landslide majority; they have interpreted its political success as a “mandate” to advance their cause of creating a Hindu state.
‘The land of the Hindus’
This has led to a marked increase in anti-Christian sentiment across India and these incidents continue to increase in the run-up to the political elections in 2019, Shibu Thomas, founder of India-based website Persecution Relief, told AsiaNews.
The website has documented at least 1,200 incidents of discrimination against Christians in the last two years.
“According to the persecutors, Christians have nothing to do with our country and [extremist groups] proclaim that India is for Hindus, it is a Hindu nation and all those born here must be Hindu,” Thomas said.
He added that winning the next elections was not the only goal for the nationalists. They also want to preserve the social order, “the tyranny of castes”, he said.
Mahatma Gandhi, the social activist who led India’s independence movement against British rule, a Hindu himself, protested against the idea of India as a Hindu nation.
“The assumption of the Hindus that India now has become the land of the Hindus is erroneous,” he wrote in July 1947. “India belongs to all who live here. If we stop cow slaughter by law here and the very reverse happens in Pakistan, what will be the result? Supposing they say Hindus would not be allowed to visit temples because it was against Sharia to worship idols? I see God even in a stone but how do I harm others by this belief?”