Last August 27, Hindu militants in the village of Mehndikheda, Madhya Pradesh state, chased Christians from a Pentecostal prayer service and destroyed their meeting place. Two weeks later, near Calcutta, Hindu extremists burned Christian books they had seized from schoolchildren. A week later in Gujarat state, Hindus severely beat Methodist pastor Paul Christian and four of his church members for showing a film about Jesus.
Such incidents have become more common since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies came to power in 1998. For half a century the government has given religious minorities a role in Indian society, but now the BJP condones radical Hindu elements that forcibly strive to turn the world's largest democracy into a Hindu-only nation.
The radicals' fusion of Hinduism with nationalism—Hindutva—has struck primarily at Muslims, but violence against Christians also has surged this year. Attacks on Christians occur weekly, The Washington Times noted on February 25. In one case, militants shot two church workers and a teenage boy; in another, extremists beat two missionaries as they were bicycling home; and a mob of 70 Hindus attacked a group of children attending a catechism class in a church.
India has known various religions throughout its history, but extremists of the National Volunteer Movement (RSS, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) advocate a return to ancient days of Hindu glory described in scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita. Eighty percent of India's population adhere to some form of Hinduism, 12.5 percent are Muslim, and 2.4 percent are Christian, according to Operation World.
India's constitution calls for full religious freedom. But nationalists, portraying Christianity as a ...1
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