After landslide win for Modi, India's Christians fear increasing marginalisation

Christians in India say life has been more difficult under Narendra ModiReuters

Narendra Modi has promised a "bright future" for India after a landslide election win for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, but Christians are fearing difficult times ahead. 

Securing a second five-year term by a comfortable margin, Modi dedicated his win "to the people of India" and asked Indians "to walk with love" for the good of the nation. 

"I want that the people who want a bright future for this country despite the government that comes to power – for the future of the country, its unity and diversity – this election has set a new narrative," he said in his victory speech.

"This new narrative means that in this country that there will be only two castes and the country will be built only on those two castes.. Those two are the poor and the ones who contribute to uplift the poor."

While Modi and his supporters may be celebrating, Christians have greeted news of his victory with concern, saying they fear increasing marginalisation. 

Local church leaders told Open Doors contacts that their work has only become more challenging under the BJP government and that they had hoped that a new government would come to power so that they could enjoy more freedom.

One church leader whose name has been concealed for security reasons expects an increase in violence against Christians. 

"Now that the ruling party comes in again, Christians might have very difficult times," they said. 

"It will be difficult for the churches to function. There will be more violence against Christians.

"The BJP is a pro-Hindu party and is polarising the minds of Indians on the ground of religion, spreading communal disharmony.

"It rouses religious intolerance, promoting Hinduism, crowning it as the only religion in India and belittling Christians and Muslims as intruders."

Anti-conversion laws have led to an increase in persecution against Christians in India(Photo: Unsplash/llzhrs)

Henrietta Blyth, the CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: "It is an increasingly worrying time for Christians in India.

"Over the last five years they have experienced a significant level of violence, discrimination and intolerance against them.

"We hope that this second BJP victory will not be a mandate for increased persecution but will instead be an opportunity to heal the increasing divides in India."

Indian Christians have seen an increase in harassment under Modi's government. 

The country ranks number 10 on Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. 

A report by the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the Evangelical Fellowship of India has shown a significant rise in recorded incidents of persecution against Christians, from 130 in 2012 to 325 last year.  However, the RLC fears that many more attacks are going unreported.

There are 64 million Christians in India, less than five per cent of the population, with those living in rural areas being especially vulnerable to persecution.  Hinduism is the majority religion but under Modi, it has become increasingly tied to national identity. 

The BJP is the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation, which promotes the ideology that "to be Indian is to be Hindu". 

In addition to increasing nationalism, Christians have faced more persecution as a result of anti-conversion laws. 

Open Doors said that in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where these laws are in force, persecution against Christians has risen. Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh have also passed similar legislation but they have not yet come into effect.