17 June 2024

Christians fear more hate and intolerance as Indian election nears end

Christians are worried about the hatred directed towards minority faith groups in India during the country's elections.
Christians are worried about the hatred directed towards minority faith groups in India. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

23 May 2024

Christians in India are worried intolerance and hatred towards them and other religious minorities will intensify because of divisive, pro-Hindu rhetoric amid the country’s elections.

More than 960 million people are expected to vote in India’s general election which has been running since 19 April and will finish on 1 June.

The country’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is aiming for a third term as India’s ruling party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Faith and human rights groups including Human Rights Watch have reported a serious deterioration of human rights and crackdown on dissent under the BJP’s rule.

An Indian church leader said many Christians feared they could lose their religious freedom because of an uptick in hate speech against minority groups by the BJP during the campaign.

The leader said this included telling people their land and wealth would be taken away and redistributed to minority groups such as Muslims.

Requesting anonymity because of the risk of reprisal, he said attacks against churches and activists in recent years was also front of mind for many Christians. 

He said many were afraid India could become a country driven by religious fundamentalism.

According to Open Doors UK, radical Hinduism was a key reason India was ranked 11th on its list of places in the world where Christians were unsafe.

Read more: Churches in flames, thousands of Christians displaced as North-East India faces civil war

The Christian leader said Muslims were the most targeted of the religious minority groups.

Amnesty International reported that hatred and violence towards Muslims in India had escalated dramatically in recent years, including 255 incidents in the first six months of 2023 alone.

According to Politico researchers, Mr Modi’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has spiralled significantly during the election campaign.

An Australian international development worker who also asked to remain anonymous said many Indian social justice groups and NGOs were also struggling.

He said many who criticised the government were shut down ostensibly for not paying taxes or would have their registration to attract and receive foreign funds revoked.

He said there were also many instances of Hindu fundamentalists levelling untrue accusations against individuals and groups at the village and community level.

He said it was easy to be blacklisted but hard to get justice because many officials were aligned with the pro-Hindu agenda.

The Australian worker said India’s higher courts were the best recourse for justice against some of these allegations.

But he said few people could fight them in court because many were unable to afford to hire lawyers.

The Indian church leader said many of his fellow Christians were disappointed that Australians displayed little discernment for truth when Mr Modi visited Australia in 2023.

“I hope that the Church of Christ will be the prophetic voice in their own country to their governments, irrespective of who’s suffering,” he said.

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