India: Authorities accused of collaborating with nationalist extremists in attacks on Christians

(Photo: Barnabas Aid)

Continued attacks on Christians in Chhattisgarh state, India have citizens concerned that local officials are conspiring with Hindu extremists.

Christians comprise less than two per cent of Chhattisgarh's population, and face violent persecution at the hands of Hindu terrorists. Religious freedom advocates have called for government intervention.

The most recent attack in Chhattisgarh took place on October 25 in Madota, Bastar District. Local officials had called for a meeting with area Christians to discuss religious restrictions such as a ban on missionaries, but no officials came. That evening, armed Hindu extremists arrived in the village, and accused the Christians of forcibly converting Hindus. Over 15 people were beaten, and seven were seriously injured.

"Some of the injured Christians were admitted in a hospital in Jagdalpur, and some local Christians have also been forced to go into hiding due to the constant threats they received from the right-wing groups," Reverend Bhupendra Kohra told Morning Star News.

Chhattisgarh Christian Forum President Arun Pannalal said officials are assisting the extremists in the hopes that a petition contesting the ban on non-Hindu religious activities will lose traction.

"The district authorities, along with some right-wing elements, are also pressuring us to withdraw the petition filed in the high court against the ban on the entry of non-Hindu missionaries in Bastar," he said. "Now our writ is pending in the high court. We see this latest attack as a pressure tactic."

On October 20 in Tokapal, Chhattisgarh, a Christian was beaten unconscious for his faith. "The Hindu extremists were behind the attack," Reverend Akhilesh Edgar, a Tokapal church leader, said. The man, identified only as Laxman, was unconscious for 24 hours, and remained in the hospital as of November 2.

A church service was targeted on October 19 in Madota. About 30 people interrupted the service by chanting, and a handful of extremists entered the church and began beating people. Religious freedom advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India reported that women and children were among those attacked.

Another church attack occurred the same day in Farasgoan, Bastar District. Church leaders and freedom advocates fear that continued legislation against non-Hindu religious practices will only increase the violence against area Christians.

"The government must reverse the decisions of these [villages] immediately to restore the confidence of the Christian community in the state, which is under considerable stress in recent days," Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India National Director Reverend Vijayesh Lal wrote in a letter to officials. The anti-Christian legislation was enacted in May and July 2014.