Anti-Christian violence in India

Destroyed property inside Adoration Monastery, Mangalore, after it was vandalized by activists belonging to the Bajrang Dal, during the September 2008 attacks on Christians in Mangalore

Anti-Christian violence in India refers to religiously motivated violence against Christians in India, usually perpetrated by Hindu nationalists. The acts of violence include arson of churches, re-conversion of Christians to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.[1][2] Violence against Christians has been seen by Human Rights organization as a tactic used to meet political ends. According to a Human Rights Watch report that was published in September 1999, the number of incidents of anti-Christian violence rose in the months following the victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in March 1998.[2] In early 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch about his government's commitment to maintaining peace and religious harmony and said that his government will strongly act against acts of religious violence. Speaking at the celebration of the elevation to Sainthood of Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia, Modi said, "The tradition of welcoming all faiths in India is as old as India itself ... We believe that there is truth in every religion. This is critical for peace and harmony in the nation."[3]


From 1964 to 1996, at least 38 incidents of violence against Christians were reported. In 1997, 24 such incidents were reported. Since 1998, Christians in India have faced a wave of violence.[4] In 1998 alone, 90 incidents were reported.[1]

The Sangh Parivar and related organisations have stated that the violence is an expression of "spontaneous anger" of "vanvasis" against conversion activities undertaken by missionaries.[5]


Incidents of violence against Christians have occurred in nearly all parts of India, it has largely been confined to north, central, and western India, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the capital area of New Delhi

In June 2000, four churches around India were bombed. In Andhra Pradesh, church graves were desecrated. A church in Maharashtra was ransacked.[6] In September 2008, two churches were partly damaged in Kerala.[7][8] Christian leaders described the events of September 2008 as deliberate acts by anti-socials and denied any religious motive in the attacks.[9]

Jammu and Kashmir

The anti-Christian intolerance in Jammu and Kashmir is reaching alarming proportions
 Sajan George, The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC)[10]

Christians in India have frequently been subjected to intolerance,[10] harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims.[11] In Jammu and Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, a Christian convert and missionary, Bashir Tantray, was killed, allegedly by militant Islamists in 2006.[12]

The Government of Jammu-Kashmir in 2010 asked Jim Borst, a Dutch Catholic Missionary, who was at that time one of the two members of the Institute Mill Hill missionary in the Kashmir valley, to leave the valley. Borst was also in charge of two schools there.[13] Nevertheless, the spokesperson for Indian Christians, John Dayal rejected the claim that any forced conversion took place. John Dayal stated, "A fact finding team which went to Srinagar in the wake of the arrest of Rev Khanna, and interviewed Church personnel, Ulema, school authorities and the police, found no evidence of force or fraud in baptisms that have been carried out over a period of time. Each baptism has been proved to be voluntary".[14]

In January 2012, Sharia court of Kashmir announced 'Fatwa' against Christian schools in Kashmir. It asked three priests to leave valley with the charge that they were "luring Muslims to Christianity". The court not only instructed Jammu and Kashmir government to monitor such activities in future but to also take over the management of the Christian missionary schools.[14]

In April 2012, a Christian couple was arrested with that accusation of "promoting enmity". The policemen later explained that the arrest was made "as a precaution to prevent tensions in the area." However, their children tell a completely different tale: "Our parents went to Srinagar on April 16 last year to attend a wedding. The next day, while doing some shopping at the market, talking to a salesman our father said he was Christian and they were insulted, beaten and finally arrested by local police."[15]

In May 2012, in a premeditated arson attack Muslims set fire to a Catholic church.[16]

Concerning these issues Father Mathew Thomas, pastor of Holy Family commented "With these gestures, the Muslim community is trying to intimidate the Christian minority. But there are not even 400 Christians in Srinagar: I appeal to Omar Abdullah, chief minister, a Muslim who studied in Christian institutions. He must protect the entire population of Srinagar, including minorities."[16]

A Muslim mob with Imprimatur of Local Imam, in April 2013, attacked a group of seven British Christians including five women and two children, who were living in Shivpora for about four years. Muslims hurled stones at their vehicles and house. The reason they claimed was to stop conversion to Christianity.[10]

On 5 February 2013 eight Americans and four Koreans were attacked by an Islamic mob at 10 pm because of allegations of forced conversions propagated from a Facebook page. Some of the ruffians threw stones at the walls outside the hotel where the tourists were staying, but owing to the intervention of policemen, injuries were avoided.[11]

Madhya Pradesh

In Madhya Pradesh a church was destroyed and bibles were burnt in Mandla district in September 2014.[17] In March 2015, a Bible convention was attacked in Jabalpur, with allegations that religious conversions were taking place.[18] Christian tribals were said to be living in fear with the rising incidence of attacks.[19] Several community leaders said the attacks on Christians started to increase when the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power back in 2003 and again in 2014.[20]


A Christian priest, K. K. Alavi in Manjeri, a 1970 convert from Islam,[21] thereby raised the ire of his former Muslim community and received many death threats. An Islamic terrorist group named "The National Development Front" actively campaigned against him.[22] Muslim clerics are known to hold up Alavi as a prime example of an enemy of Islam even during prayers.[22] In that area traditional Christianity is considered blasphemy.[22]

In the southern state of India, Kerala which has an ancient pre-Islamic community of Eastern Rite Christians, fundamentalists chopped off the hand of Professor T.J. Joseph due to allegation of blasphemy of prophet.[23] On 4 July 2010, a group of eight people in a Maruti Omni waylaid the Professor near his home at Muvattupuzha. Joseph was pulled out of his car along with his sister and his mother. They were attacked with knives, swords, axes and home-made bombs. Professor Joseph’s right hand was chopped off at the wrist and thrown away. He also suffered wounds to other parts of his body. His left hand from the wrist also has been severely damaged. His sister and his mother also suffered injuries.[24][25][26] According to police, the attack was carried out by an eight-member team consisting of Savad of Asamannoor, Pareeth of North Vazhakkulam, Shobin of Kothamangalam, Nazar of Aluva, Shajil of Muvattupuzha, Shamsuddin of Perumbavoor, Shanvas and Jamal.[27]



The 2008 wave of attacks against Christians in Karnataka includes attacks directed against Christian churches and prayer halls in Karnataka by the Bajrang Dal,[29] with the ruling BJP government accused of involvement. The violence started from 14 September 2008 when about 20 churches were vandalized in Mangalore, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, and in other districts of Karnataka.[30] Minor violence was later reported from the border state of Kerala.

Incidents of mob attacks against Jehovah’s Witnesses[31] have been reported with increasing frequency in Karnataka. The attackers gather in gangs of 20 to 50 individuals to intimidate small groups of Witnesses engaging in the peaceful Christian ministry that they are well known for. Some of the mobs threaten to murder and rape the Witnesses.


In a well-publicised case, Graham Staines, an Australian Christian missionary, was burnt to death along with his sons Timothy (aged 10) and Philip (aged 6), while they were sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Orissa in January 1999. He was running the Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj, an Australian missionary society.[2] In 2003, Dara Singh was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of leading the gang responsible.[32]

An outbreak of violence started on 24 December 2007 at Bamunigam village of Kandhamal District when Hindu activists forcefully removed a Christmas decoration placed on a site traditionally used during Durga Puja.[33][34]

In August 2008, Swami Lakshmanananda, a Hindu swami and VHP anti-conversion and reconversion activist, was attacked and killed, along with four associates by Maoist guerrillas.[35] The violence that followed resulted in the death of some Christians. The violence later spread to more than 600 villages in 14 of the 30 districts in the state, resulting in 5,600 Christian houses burnt and 54,000 homeless. 38 Christian people were murdered, while 18,000 were injured. Human rights groups estimated 100 deaths, including women, disabled and children. 295 churches and places of worship were destroyed, along with 13 schools and colleges and 5 non-profit organisation offices.[36] As of 2015, the Christian victims were still awaiting justice and rehabilitation.[37]

On March 16, 1999 a Hindu mob of 5,000 attacked Ranalai and set houses on fire.[38][39][40] and engaged in looting. Three people were injured. The CM of Odisha, Sri Giridhar Gamang, visited the next day.


In 1997 in Gujarat, 22 churches were burnt or destroyed, and another 16 damaged.[43] Recently, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on Christians. A Hindu group claims to have converted 2,000 tribal Christians to Hinduism. The attackers had vandalized places of worship and thus caused strike terror among the tribals. On 18 September, the Central Government issued an advisory under Article 355 of the constitution to the Orissa government along with Karnataka.[44][45]

Since 2014

It was reported by some sections of the media that there was an increase in incidents of violence against Christians after the new BJP government under Narendra Modi came to power after the general election in April-May 2014.[46][47][48] An investigation of crime records shows that church attack figures under NDA rule match those under UPA.[49] Several churches were attacked in the capital Delhi since December 2014,[50] like St. Sebastian's Church, which was burned.[51] A church in Mangalore was attacked in February 2015.[52][53] In March 2015, a 71-year-old nun was gang raped in West Bengal during an attack on a convent school in which the school's chapel was ransacked and sacred items stolen.[54][55][56] The Police identified all eight perpetrators and arrested six of them, two of whom were Bangadeshi nationals.[57][58][59] The next day, a church building under construction was vandalised in Haryana.[60][61] St. George church in Mumbai was also attacked by masked persons.[62] Four people were arrested by the police including a person who operated an illegal gambling den. The police claimed that it was a revenge attack because the accused suspected that a complaint from St. George's Church had led to a police raid on their gambling den.[63] In the same month, the cathedral of Jabalpur was attacked and more than a dozen people were injured.[64] The same cathedral had also been attacked in 2008 and the entire altar burnt down.[65] In April 2015, St. Mary's Church in Agra was vandalised and statues of Mother Mary and the Infant Jesus were damaged.[66] Police arrested a Muslim man who reportedly was angry about being rejected by a Christian girl.[67] In June, a nun was sexually assaulted in Raipur.[68] A Church in Kachna area of Raipur was attacked by a mob during a Sunday Service and five people were injured when they tried to stop the miscreants.[69]There were reports of a mob thrashing women and children, however police maintained no women and children were injured.[70][71]


Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the sister organisations of BJP) are the most accused Hindu organizations for violence against Christians in India.[2] Sangh Parivar and local media were involved in promoting anti-Christian propaganda in Gujarat.[2] The National Commission for Minorities has stated that the State governments ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies provided support to the perpetrators.[72][73]


US State Department

In its annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians."[74] The report on anti-Christian violence listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. The incidents listed in the report were attributed to local media reports and information gathered by Christian groups in India.[74]

National Commission for Minorities

In light of recent Anti-Christian violence in Karnataka by the Bajrang Dal activists, the National Commission for Minorities had accused the Karnataka government of serious lapses in handling the situation. They were found directly responsible for allowing the violence to spread, and claimed the police failed to solve the issue effectively as the violence continues. They also clarified that there were no reported complaints of forced conversion registered in the state.[72][73]

National Integration Council of India

On 13 October 2008, the National Integration Council of India called a special meeting chaired by Manmohan Singh, then Prime Minister of India and raised the voice against spreading anti-Christian violence in India. The Prime minister strongly condemned the violence supported by the hands of Hindu militant organizations such as Bajrang Dal, VHP etc.[75] The prime minister had earlier publicly admitted that the ongoing violence against the Christian communities was a matter of great "national shame". [76]

Pope Benedict XVI

On 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI criticized the continuing Anti-Christian violence in India.

On 28 October, the Vatican called upon the memory of Mahatma Gandhi for an end to the religious violence in Orissa. In a written address to Hindus, the Vatican office said Christian and Hindu leaders needed to foster a belief in non-violence among followers.[77] Although the Mahatma had been very strong in his opposition to conversion, he had always denounced violence as an appropriate response.[78]

See also


  1. 1 2 Vinay Lal. "Anti-Christian Violence in India". Manas: India and Its Neighbors. UCLA College of Letters and Science.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Anti-Christian Violence on the Rise in India". Human Rights Watch. 29 September 1999. Attacks Against Christians in India, details violence against Christians in the months ahead of the country's national parliamentary elections in September and October 1999, and in the months following electoral victory by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party, known as the BJP) in the state of Gujarat. Attacks against Christians throughout the country have increased significantly since the BJP began its rule at the center in March 1998. They include the killings of priests, the raping of nuns, and the physical destruction of Christian institutions, schools, churches, colleges, and cemeteries.
  4. Stanley, Alessandra (6 November 1999). "Pope Lands in India Amid Rise in Anti-Christian Violence". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  5. "A hate campaign in Gujarat". Frontline. January 1999. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  6. "Anti-Christian Violence in India".
  7. "Xian, Hindu priests chant for peace at historic Kerala summit". 1 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  8. "Police recover bike used during church attacks".
  9. "Attacks on churches decried". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 30 September 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  10. 1 2 3 Gheddo, Piero. "INDIA Indian Kashmir, two Christians arrested on false charges of forced conversions - Asia News". Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  11. 1 2 Gheddo, Piero. "INDIA Kashmir, false accusations on Facebook: mob tries to lynch 12 tourists - Asia News". Retrieved 2013-05-15. The violent reaction was triggered by a photo published on the Facebook page Gulmarg News.
  12. Christian convert from Islam shot dead in Kashmir,SperoNews.
  13. Gheddo, Piero. "INDIA Missionary forced to leave Kashmir because his schools are "too good" - Asia News". Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  14. 1 2 "'Fatwa' announced against Christian schools in Kashmir, 3 priests asked to leave valley - The Times of India". Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  15. Gheddo, Piero (2012-04-20). "INDIA Indian Kashmir: Christians arrested for "promoting enmity" - Asia News". Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  16. 1 2 Gheddo, Piero (2012-05-25). "INDIA Indian Kashmir, "unknown arsonists" set fire to a Catholic church - Asia News". Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  17. Church set ablaze in Mandla district, The Times of India, 28 September 2014.
  18. Church Attacked in Jabalpur, Christians Threaten to Shut Schools if Attackers Not Caught, NDTV, 22 March 2015.
  19. Fear Rules in Tribal Pockets of Madhya Pradesh After Attack on Churches, NDTV, 25 March 2015
  21. "IN SEARCH OF ASSURANCE" by K. K. Alavi
  22. 1 2 3 Convert from Islam in India Remains on Death List Archived 11 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine.,Christian Examiner
  23. Special Correspondent (2010-07-28). "No report yet on 'Taliban-model' courts: Kodiyeri". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  24. "Taliban writ in God's own country". The Times of India. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  25. "Controversial lecturer's palm chopped off". The New Indian Express. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  26. "Attackers cut off Newman college prof Joseph's hand". Mathrubhumi. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  27. "Home". Manorama Online. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  28. "INDIA Karnataka: New wave of violence and attacks on Christians. Complicity of authorities". Retrieved 2016-03-22.
  29. "Bajrang Dal cadre attacks churches in Karnataka". timesofindia-economictimes. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  30. "INDIA Karnataka: 20 churches attacked, Christians accuse police of inaction". Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  31. "Bajrang Dal cadre attacks churches in Karnataka". timesofindia-economictimes. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  32. The Staines case verdict V. Venkatesan, Frontline Magazine, 11–23 Oct 2003
  33. "Tehelka:: Free. Fair. Fearless:Next Stop Orissa". Tehalka. Retrieved 8 September 2008.
  34. "Report of the NCM visit to Orissa, 6–8 January 2008" (PDF). NCM. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  35. Maoists killed Lakshmanananda, say Orissa Police, The Hindu, 17 October 2008.
  36. Osuri, Goldie (2013). Religious Freedom in India: Sovereignty and (anti) Conversion. Routledge. p. 39–40. ISBN 0415665574.
  37. Editorial (30 August 2014). "Indulging the Hate-mongers". Economic and Political Weekly. XLIX (35).
  38. Tehelka magazine Vol 5, Issue 36, Dated Sept 13, 2008
  39. Volume 16 - Issue 8, Apr. 10 - 23, 1999, India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU
  40. Frontline, India’s national magazine and from the publishers of THE HINDU
  41. The Hindu, Aug 27, 2008
  42. The Hindu national news on the Net
  43. "Anti-Christian Violence in India".
  44. "Gujarat : More anti-Christian violence".
  45. "Hindu extremists convert 2,000 Christians in India".
  57. Ranaghat gang-rape case: Police detains two Bangladesh nationals, DNA India, 20 March 2015.
  58. Indian nun rape case: Police make more arrests, BBC News, 1 April 2015.
  59. Suspects in nun rape case appear in Indian court, Al Jazeera News, 3 April 2015.
  61. Church Vandalised in Haryana, Hanuman Idol Allegedly Placed Inside, NDTV News, 16 March 2015.
  69. "Mob Chanting 'Jai Sri Ram' Vandalises Church In Chhattisgarh". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  70. "Chhattisgarh Church Attacked During Service, Congregants Thrashed". Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  71. "Mob Chanting 'Jai Sri Ram' Vandalises Church In Chhattisgarh". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  72. 1 2 NCM blames Bajrang Dal for Karnataka, Orissa violence, The Times of India, 21 September 2008
  73. 1 2 No case of forcible conversion in Udupi district: Qureshi, The Hindu, 18 Sep 2008
  74. 1 2 "US rights report slams India for anti-Christian violence". 27 February 1999. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  75. "National Integration Council Debated on Hindutva Terror Christian Members". 13 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  76. "India under siege". 18 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  77. "Vatican invokes Gandhi in plea to end Orissa violence". 28 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  78. "His faith, our faith". Hindustan Times. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010.

Further reading

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