Attacks on religious minorities across India have dramatically increased as Hindu nationalism has exploded in the subcontinent. For many, it now feels like India’s cows are better protected than the country’s religious minorities, including Christians and Muslims. In 2016, International Christian Concern recorded 361 attacks on Christians including violent assaults, forced conversions, false arrests, vandalism, and much more. As Hindu nationalism continues to gain power in India, where will that leave India’s Christians and Muslims?
05/02/2017 India (US News & World Report) – Indolent Indian cows sitting or eating on the busiest roads of the country’s cities are common sights for anyone who has ever visited the subcontinent.
Today, this mammal is at the center of the country’s increasingly violent social upheaval. In the name of defending Hindu values, vigilante mobs are lynching and killing people suspected of eating or trading cows, and the country’s openly “hindutva,” or “Hindu-first,” government has done little to stop them.
In fact, on April 25, the right-wing ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), proposed a measure to identify cows using an electronic ID system similar to the one deployed in 2012 to identify all Indian citizens. Welcome to Indian “meat politics.”
Cows are considered sacred in certain interpretations of Hindu philosophy. But some academics, such as the retired Delhi University historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha, have debunked the myth of the absolutely “holy cow.”
That did not prevent a mob from murdering a 55-year-old Rajasthan dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan. In the April 6 incident captured on video and widely viewed on social media, vigilantes brutally thrashed him and the other Muslims traders, ostensibly for transporting cattle.
The Hindu trailer driver, however, was allowed to leave safely, casting doubt on the real aim of this cow vigilantism.
Rajasthan’s home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, defended the act, saying that “the cow protectors [did] a good job by protecting cows from smuggling.” He refused to label Khan’s death a murder, blaming “both sides” for the violence.
Police reports are in fact often filed against the victims of such attacks, charging them with killing or possessing cows.
And, in March, a vigilante mob set fire to three meat shops in Hathras, a district in western Uttar Pradesh.
Such attacks on religious minorities have increased across India since Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in 2014, backed by the Hindu nationalist BJP. And it has happened even though he assured Indian citizens that minorities would be protected, and people who voted for him believed him.
But Christians also routinely face the ire of India’s Hindu extremists. According to Open Doors, a Holland-based Christian human rights NGO, violence against Christians in India has increased since 2016. Churches have been destroyed; priests, nuns and parishioners have been beaten.
On April 5, the members of the Uttar Pradeish’s “Hindu Yuva Vahini” group forced the police to halt prayers at a church in the town of Maharajganj, alleging that it was forcing Indians to convert to Christianity.
India’s Dalit community – so-called “untouchables” – is also being targeted. In July 2016, seven members of a Dalit family in Una town, in western Gujarat, were beaten for skinning a dead cow – a traditional occupation in this outcast community. The event sparked nationwide protests, but the government’s response has been tepid.