A growing and often violent conflict between Hindus and Christians have renewed concerns about the growth of Hindu nationalism.
The New York Times (Jan. 23) reports that in the past year there have been more attacks on Christians than at any other time in India’s half century of independence. According to the Indian Home Ministry the numbers of attacks upon Christians — who make up 2.3 percent of the nation’s population — rose from 7 in 1996 to 24 in 1997 to 86 last year. Christians, who have banded together in the United Christian Forum for Human Rights claim that it is in those regions where Hindu Nationalists, represented by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that these attacks have been the strongest.
Militant Hindu nationalists, along with some government officials, accuse Christians of using foreign financial backing to proselytize Hindus, promising converts money, health services, and free education. Much of the conflict concerns the Christian missionaries’ success among tribal people. So far, Hindu leaders have played down the attacks, with Prime Minster Atal Behari Vajpayee, adding flames to the fire by calling for a national debate on religious conversions.