India: Hindu nationalists stir up anti-Christian hostility as election strategy

Attacks against Christians in Karnataka, India, are being reported almost every other day as Hindu nationalists rouse hostility in a bid to consolidate the Hindu vote ahead of state assembly elections.

It is feared that anti-Christian violence in the state will further increase and intensify in the run-up to the poll next year; the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) said that “the total number of attacks is expected to be unprecedented by the end of this year”.

The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking re-election but is in a state of crisis. Former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was forced to resign last year amid corruption charges, is setting up a rival political group and is expected to take several BJP members with him, thus dividing the Hindu vote.

Mahendra Kumar, former state unit president of the Bajrang Dal, a violent Hindu extremist group with links to the BJP, said that the BJP is trying to bring the state’s Hindus together by raising issues against Christians and Muslims, projecting them as enemies of Hindus.

This is a strategy the party has used in the past, and it has resulted in increased attacks on Christians. After the BJP took full control of Karnataka state in 2008, violence against Christians soared.

Kumar was jailed as the main perpetrator in a spate of anti-Christian attacks in 2008 but subsequently reformed and quit the Hindu nationalist movement. He said that the Hindu nationalists play on emotions, “projecting wrong history and some negative points of the minority community” so that “hatred is sown among the Hindu youth”.

One typical false accusation levelled at Christians is that they are converting Hindus through bribery.

Alleged forced conversions were the pretext for two recent attacks on Christians in Karnataka. On 11 October in Kannur, Kolar district, around 20 Hindu extremists beat a pastor unconscious and also physically assaulted other Christians who were with him.

The pastor suffered a broken rib and severe injuries to his head and neck from the beating, which lasted almost two hours.

Around 50 Hindu extremists, led by the local BJP president, barged into a prayer meeting for the sick and blind in Kelaginahatti on 18 September. They beat the pastor, chased away some of the participants and destroyed the meal that had been prepared for them. The extremists had five Christians who were at the meeting detained by the police.

Source:  Barnabas Aid

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