Two years ago, the All India Christian Council (AICC) began building a modest dispensary in the dusty village of Limdi, which had been hit hard by an earthquake. It was to be dedicated to the public, a quiet expression of Christian concern for the small community in India's sometimes militantly Hindu Gujarat state.
This spring World Hindu Council (VHP) radicals ransacked the facility. They left a chilling warning in red paint: "Those who don't worship Lord Ram are worthless." They also ransacked the public dispensary. "Most of these [Christian] organizations work to divide the country and destroy Hindu religion," say posters throughout the dusty town. "Glory be to god Ram: VHP!"
Increasingly bold legal challenges to Christians, and even terrorist acts by radical Hindu, or Hindutva, forces are spreading.
In March the state government in Gujarat passed a law declaring "forced" conversions illegal. Called the Freedom of Religion Bill, the controversial legislation was the top priority in the election manifesto of the extremist national ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party). The party won a massive victory in state government elections in October.
According to Compass Direct, the law seeks to prevent religious conversion by force or allurement. It calls for a three-year prison term and a fine of 50,000 rupees ($1,070) for violators. Those who simply change their religion without permission face a fine equivalent to $20. Other Indian states, including Tamil Nadu in the south, have passed similar measures in recent months (CT, February, p. 30).
"There are attempts on the part of Hindutva forces to isolate the Christian community and even bring about disunity among us," John Dayal of the AICC told Christianity Today. ...1