Areligious survey conducted by police among the Christian community in Gujarat is raising fears of unpleasant surprises planned for Indian Christians by Hindu fanatics in the western state.

The Gujarat government says it has been gathering statistics on Christians at the behest of federal officials. On Tuesday the State High Court ordered the survey halted. It has sent notices to federal and State government officials to explain the motive behind the survey.

"Such surveys are dangerous, and illegal, because other than the national census, held under [federal] laws, no one else has the right to ask intimate questions on faith," says John Dayal, secretary general of All India Christian Council. "These surveys are dangerous because they arm goons of the Hindu group RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and other … elements with ready-made hit lists of the nature made famous by Nazi cadres." Human rights observers say Hindu gangs used similar lists to target Muslims, their property, and businesses during a genocidal riot in Gujarat last year.

During the first week of March, copies of a handwritten questionnaire in the local Gujarati language recently were sent to missionaries across the state. The questionnaire was also sent to every police station in the state. It seeks information on Christians living in the various areas from 1998 to 2002. The document says all information will go to the state and central governments before the end of this month. It asks for names, years of birth, details of all Christian institutes, numbers of conversions, numbers of new institutes, and exact details about born and converted Christians in each village. The questionnaire also asks, "What are the reasons behind the conversion in your districts?"

State ...

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