India’s Christian leaders are urging the country’s central and state governments to “ensure justice and protection” after at least 23 incidents, “at best a partial indicator”, of anti-Christian violence were recorded in the last two months. A Hindu nationalist group is also appealing to the government, in their case for increased control over the population of religious minority groups.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) has recorded a catalogue of vandalism, threats, false accusations, beatings, arrests, expulsions and killings against India’s minority Christian population over the course of September and October. Most of the recorded incidents occurred in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
In one recorded incident, Dasudi Ben Bhuriya, the 58-year-old mother of a pastor was pelted with stones by around half a dozen Hindu radicals on 12 October in Bilwani village, in India’s westernmost Gujarat state.
In another, Hindu radicals in Kongud, Chhattisgarh state, summoned two Christian brothers to the Hindu temple on 22 September and demanded they renounce Christ. When they refused, a mob of Hindu extremists set upon the men, accusing them of forcibly converting people to Christianity, beating them and vandalising their home. Then, they locked up their home and expelled them from the village. When the brothers made a complaint to the police, the authorities would not register a case.
Two Christian women, Pulo Bhai and Ludri, sustained serious injuries and were left unconscious when a mob of over 50 Hindu radicals surrounded a church building in Chhattisgarh’s Karmari village on 8 September, attacking the Christians with wooden clubs and sticks. A social boycott has been placed on the village’s Christian community and all non-Hindu religious activities have been banned.
Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) call for population control policy
The Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) passed a resolution on 31 October calling on the government to “reformulate” India’s population policy because of the higher growth rates of Muslim and Christian populations in comparison with the majority Hindu population.
In their statement, made public in Ranchi, capital of India’s Jharkhand state, the RSS said that “infiltrators are usurping the rights of the citizens” and “becoming a heavy burden on the already scant resources, apart from creating socio-cultural, political and economic tensions”.
The RSS is committed to the ideology of Hindutva, whereby India and Hinduism are essentially interchangeable. The group recently celebrated 90 years in existence. It was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar on 27 September 1925. Today, it claims to have more than six million followers and around 50,000 “shakhas” (branches).
The group has numerous allied organisations that have founded schools, charities and clubs, all of which exist to help spread the beliefs of the RSS. Its educational wing, Vidya Bharati Sansthan, operates around 40,000 schools across the country.
The RSS was instrumental in bringing President Narendra Modi (himself a full-time RSS volunteer as a young man) into power by marshalling its members to canvas for him. Seven members of his cabinet are former RSS members.
The recent statement by the RSS was prompted by the release of the 2011 Census data on religious affiliation. This data revealed that the Hindu population had dropped to below 80% (79.8%) for the first time. Additionally, it showed that the Muslim population had grown by 0.8% (to 14.23% of the total population) since the 2001 census and the Christian population had recorded significant growth in the northern states.
Earlier this year, Sadhvi Deva Thakur, vice president of the All India Mahasabha Hindu nationalist party called for the sterilization of Muslims and Christians: “The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein this in, [the government] will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilization so that they can’t increase their numbers”. Thakur also said that Hindus should increase the number of children they have.