Indian Christians Continue to Face Boycott, Forced Conversions

Friday, November 19, 2010

By Joseph C. DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

NEW DELHI, India (Worthy News)-- Two years after losing relatives and property to anti-Christian violence, survivors in India's Orissa state are still being pressured to "return" to Hinduism, according to a private investigation.

According to the preliminary report of a fact-finding team, "Despite the state administration’s claim of normalcy, a state of lawlessness and utter fear and sense of insecurity" is prevalent among the Christians in Kandhamal district who experienced anti-Christian violence in 2008.

The team, composed of attorney Nicholas Barla, rights activists Jugal Kishore Ranjit and Ajay Kumar Singh, visited four villages in three blocks of Kandhamal in early November.

In Bodimunda village in Tikabali, the team met a pastor who said he was closely watched after Hindu extremists forced him to become a Hindu. The pastor, whose name was withheld, said he had to convert to Hinduism to spare his aged mother, who could not have escaped the violence as she was not able to walk.

In the same village, Hindu nationalists also baned any vehicle used to transport Christians or their belongings while prohibiting Christians from obtaining basic needs.

We are not allowed to bring in provisions or medicines, said an anonymous local Christian, nor are we allowed to buy anything from local shops; since we do not have any shops of our own, we are struggling to survive.

The team also found pictures of Hindu gods that Christians were forced to publically display to protect their families from retaliation; many Christians complained that local administrators did little to protect them and suspect these same officials colluded with local Hindu nationalists against them.

Violence in Kandhamal and other districts in Orissa occured after the assassination of Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23, 2008; the ensuing rampage killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions, according to estimates by human rights groups. The attacks began a day after the assassination as Hindu nationalists blamed Christians for Saraswati's murder even though local Maoists claimed responsibility for his death.

According to a 2001 census, of the 648,201 people living in Kandhamal district, 117,950 are Christians, most of whom are Dalit, formerly referred to as "untouchables".