India’s Christians Relieved as Hindu Nationalists Lose Five Key State Elections
By ICC’s India Correspondent
12/14/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The results of five state elections have come as a massive relief for Christians and other religious minorities in India. The elections resulted in the defeat of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Telangana.
In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, the Indian National Congress (INC), a BJP rival and traditionally secular party, will form the state government. In Mizoram and Telangana, regional political parties will remain in power.
The results of these elections have many Christians and other minorities breathing a sigh of relief. Since the BJP took control of India’s national government in 2014, attacks on Christians and their places of worship have skyrocketed. In 2014, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) documented 147 violent attacks on Christians in India. In 2017, after three years of BJP rule, EFI documented 351 violent attacks on Christians.
Much of the increased anti-Christian and anti-minority violence has been blamed on the BJP’s propagation of its Hindu nationalist ideology, often referred to as Hindutva.
“We have suffered enormously for the last 15 years under BJP rule, Pastor Bhupendra Khora, leader of Bastar Christian Alliance in Chhattisgarh, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “It is a huge relief for the Christians of Bastar and Chhattisgarh as we went through terrible discrimination and violence under the BJP. Now that the results are in and the BJP is thrown out of power, we hope that there will be peace and freedom to practice our faith.”
In June 2014, only a month after the BJP took power at the national level, more than 50 villages in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district passed ordinances banning the practice of Christianity. Christian families living in these villages were given a stark choice: convert to Hinduism or leave the village. As a result, many Christian families were violently attacked, socially boycotted, and displaced from their homes. Since June 2014, the BJP government has done little, both nationally and in Chhattisgarh, to relieve the suffering of these persecuted Christians.
“In these states, Christians suffered a lot...With this change, we hope the government will treat everyone equally.”
“This is great news,” Bishop Jeswant Rana, a Christian leader from Rajasthan, told ICC in reaction to the BJP’s defeat in Rajasthan. “In these states, Christians suffered a lot. In these states, the BJP tried to experiment with its Hindutva ideology. With this change, we hope the government will treat everyone equally.”
While many are celebrating the defeat of the BJP, some are starting to look to the general elections in 2019 with trepidation.
“Unfortunately, the Christian community, and the Muslims to an extent, are left on the tenterhooks as far as the general elections in 2019 are concerned,” Dr. John Dayal, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum, told ICC. “They hope these losses will not make Modi and the BJP more aggressive in the pursuit of Hindutva as the only winning strategy.”
“While the BJP loss should make us happy, my own response is more nuanced,” Dr. Dayal continued. “In the last phase of the campaign, and in fact in the last assembly elections in Karnataka, the INC leader, Rahul Gandhi, succumbed to his own right-wing advisers and adopted what can be called Hindutva tactics to counter Modi’s own aggressive Hindutva.”
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