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(January 27, 2006) The Washington, DC-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC), has recently been informed that the incidence of violent attacks against the Christian minority community has increased by 45 percent during the last two years in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh, according to a recent survey.

This has occurred under the rule of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in a state where the Christian presence is as low as 0.3 percent.

“The survey, conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Christian Association and the National Forum for Reconciliation, Religious Liberty and Social Justice, was presented to me on January 11,” Mrs. Indira Iyengar, Member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minorities Commission, told ICC. “I, in turn, presented it to the Union (federal) minister of home affairs, Mr. Shivraj Patil, on January 23,” she added.

“Mr. Patil assured me that he would look into the findings of the survey and take appropriate action,” Iyengar said.

The survey, which was conducted among 4,105 Christians scattered in the districts of Ratlam, Indore , Dhar, Dewas and Jhabua, also revealed that poor, tribal Christians were the main target of violence. It indicated that the reasons behind the growing insecurity among the Christian community were “communalism,” apathy and corruption in the state administration, especially the police.

The term “communalism” in India refers to deliberate creation of conflicts between religious minorities – mainly Christians and Muslims – and the majority Hindu community by over-asserting the differences in their worldly interests, rituals and cultural practices. Hindu fundamentalists use the Hindutva, an ideology of Hindu nationalism, to spread communalism.

On the positive side, the survey revealed that a majority of Christians had full faith in the judiciary, and that they did not think Madhya Pradesh would ever become like Gujarat state, which witnessed the brutal carnage of about 2,000 Muslims in 2002 allegedly in total cooperation with the state administration. In addition, most Christians thought they should respond to crime against them in a non-violent way.

Some crucial figures produced by the survey are:

68.2 percent of Christians felt insecure in the state ruled by the BJP, 58.9 percent feared an attack on them sometime in the future, and 63.4 percent held the state administration and the police responsible for anti-Christian violence.

Similarly, 71.6 percent of Christians thought the reason behind opposition to Christianity was not the issue of conversion, 60.4 percent said they were not happy with the BJP (18.5 percent were satisfied, and 20.9 percent said they did not know), and 83.1 percent felt that poor, tribal Christians were the main target of attacks.

Regarding the violence against Christians in Jhabua district that erupted in early 2004, 82.8 percent felt that the state administration had not given adequate compensation to the victims, and 66.7 percent felt that the 14 Christians presently in judicial custody for the violence were innocent.

However, 96.7 percent said they had full faith in the judiciary, 92.8 percent thought that anti-Christian violence was not perpetrated by the majority Hindu community, 98.3 percent said Christians should not respond in a similar fashion as Hindu fundamentalists do, and 87.7 percent felt their state would never become like Gujarat, which is infamous for being extremely hostile to religious minorities, mainly Christians and Muslims.

Out of the total 45 percent increase in the crime against Christians in the state, Jhabua had a share of 18 percent followed by Ratlam with 7 percent, Khargone with 6 percent and Dewas with 5 percent.

Out of the 4,105 Christians surveyed, 2,685 were men and 1,420 were women in the age group of 18 to 50.