Since the Hindu nationalist party BJP rose to power in May 2014, non-Hindus across India have been attacked over 600 times, mainly by Hindu radicals. In response to this dramatic rise in violence, Christians and secular groups recently met to speak out against this new wave of persecution. Will their rally change the situation? Only time will tell.
9/16/2014 India (World Magazine) – Christian and secular groups recently met to speak out against increased persecution of non-Hindus in India. They sought to bring attention to more than 600 attacks since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to World Watch Monitor.
Modi, the head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won a landslide victory in the May elections. Nationalist fervor also helped BJP win many parliamentary seats.
Since that time, Hindu extremists have stepped up attacks and even passed laws against Christians. In one instance, several protestant pastors were arrested after Hindu fundamentalists claimed they were forcibly converting people to Christianity, Asia News said.
Christian lawyer Pramod Singh told World Watch Monitor the police beat some of the pastors to appease the Hindu mob.
“The police chief of the area even told us that ‘this is a Hindu nation.’ The police have changed colors with the change of government,” Singh said. The pastors were later released.
Recently, 50 village councils made Christian activities illegal and banned non-Hindu missionaries in spite of national protections for all religions. This persecution often stems from Hindutava, the idea that if you are Indian you must be Hindu.
These incidents prompted the coalition of Christians and activists to come together in New Delhi the first week of September because they want the government to protect the constitutional right to religious freedom for everyone in India, Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry said.
At the meeting, the activists announced a forthcoming report documenting persecution, a convention on Oct. 2 (Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and a national holiday), and protests two days later. “I think they’re trying to gain some attention to the fact that the situation is escalating and get some assurances from the government that they’re going to honor the constitution,” Curry said.
Although persecution has grown against Muslims and Christians in India since Modi’s victory, so far Christians are waiting to see how Modi responds rather than blaming him.
“Christians that I am in contact with want to give Modi the benefit of the doubt and see how he governs. I don’t think they are necessarily jumping to the conclusion that he is behind this or will impose restrictions on them,” Curry explained.
But the attitudes of some other politicians have raised concerns. The Press Trust of India reported that Cooperation Minister Dipak Dhavalikar said, “I am confident that under the leadership of [Modi], India will develop into a Hindu nation.”
Remarks like that one “set an atmosphere for oppression of Indians who don’t happen to be Hindus,” said to Todd Nettleton, Voice of the Martyrs’ director of media development.