India: Reports of rewards to kill Christians

Hindu militants in India are offering rewards of money, food and liquor to mobs to kill Christians and destroy their homes, according to partners of human rights organisation, Release International.

"People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties," a spokesman for the All India Christian Council (AICC) told Release International.

"Different tasks have different rewards," he added. "They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are being given petrol and kerosene."

The head of a string of orphanages in Orissa, who has just returned from there, believes Christian leaders are the militants’ key targets.

"The going price to kill a pastor is $250 US dollars," said Dr Faiz Rahman, the chairman of Good News India (GNI).

Dr Rahman says he was able to help 25 pastors leave one camp, but some 250 church leaders remain.

"All of the pastors are high value targets," he told Release International. "We’ve got to get them out of the refugee camps."

The AICC says the violence orchestrated by Hindu militants has now spread to 14 states. On November 11, militants destroyed churches in Tiangia, a village in the Kandhamal district, and extremists tried to kill two Christians who were attempting to return to their village. They managed to escape into the mountains.

According to the AICC, the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad organisation, is now training women fighters to attack Christians.

"They are meeting in secret and training them to use swords and sticks to fight and destroy," says an AICC spokesman.

On their official website, the Bajrang Dal describe themselves as ‘Warriors of the Hindutva Revolution’. Hindutva has been described as ‘Hindu-ness’, which has been used to justify the extreme belief that India should be for Hindus only.

Catholic bishops from Orissa warn of a ‘master-plan’ to drive out Christians from the area. In a letter to the state’s chief minister they write.

"This conflict is a calculated and pre-planned master-plan to wipe out Christianity from Kandhamal district, Orissa, in order to realise the hidden agenda… of establishing a Hindu Nation."

The AICC puts the death toll at 200 and believes disease may have claimed more lives.

Arriving at an accurate figure is impossible as many Christians have fled and are in hiding in the jungle. There have also been reports that bodies have been burnt and destroyed.

Thousands of Christian homes in the Kandhamal district have been looted and burned. The AICC says every Christian and Christian home in Kandhamal is a target.

Dr Rahman said at least 90 per cent of the churches have been destroyed, including many Baptist churches built by British missionaries.

Children and staff at Dr Rahman’s orphanages had a narrow escape when the police snatched them away to safety minutes before a mob arrived in August. The situation is now so insecure that the charity has had to close one orphanage permanently, though it is cautiously continuing to operate others.

Dr Rahman says there was panic when the mob attacked in August: "The people ran for their lives when the mob came - they panicked and ran with just the clothes on their backs."

The AICC say Christians are now beginning to move from the displaced camps to neighbouring districts and states where the situation is calmer. These people who have lost everything face further hardship as winter approaches.

The AICC has been giving out clothes, bedding and other items essential for survival. They have been helping more than 600 families who were driven out of 67 villages in Kandhamal District, and caring for victims of violence in six towns and cities.

Six Christian denominations are working together under the AICC banner, to provide relief to Christians and non-Christians alike who have been caught up in the violence.

Andy Dipper, the head of Release International, said, "Thousands of Christians now face the hardship of winter in camps for the displaced.

"Relief aid is needed now, and India must take urgent action to contain the violence, which has spread to other states.

"The authorities must safeguard the lives and homes of Christians under threat from ultra-nationalist Hindus."