Violence against Christians has been rising in Chhattisgarh, India as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has adopted a hardline stance against alleged forced Hindu to Christian conversions in the state.
According to The Guardian, Tamesh War Sahu’s family home in Chhattisgarh was ravaged by an angry mob of over 100 Hindu nationalists who beat his son and pulled down Bible verses from the walls. Sahu had been following Christianity for the last five years and never had any issues with neighbours before. Four other families were ambushed similarly on the same day in July this year. The attacks were largely conducted by Bajrang Dal, a right-wing vigilante group in Chhattisgarh that has been vocal about its aggressive stance towards forcible conversions of Hindus.
Chhattisgarh, that is home to close to 500,000 Christians, has become a hotbed for Hindu-Christian tensions, with the state having recorded the second highest number of incidents against Christians in India. The Guardian reported that churches have been vandalised, pastors beaten, and congregations have been broken up, with the police also surfacing as key culprits in using the iron hand against Christians.
The media outlet said that throngs of lower caste Hindus have converted to Christianity, a social upheaval that has acted as fodder for the BJP government to conduct a campaign for the protection of Hinduism in the region. Former BJP minister Brijmohan Agrawal told the Guardian that the anti-conversion mission was the bedrock of their fight against a ‘foreign funded’ agenda that threatened patriotism in India. BJP Youth Wing State President Amit Sahu also claimed that thousands of Christians were forcibly converting Hindus and had to be jailed.
The conversions have also left Christians in Chhattisgarh vulnerable to vigilante style attacks. In once such incident, Pastor Moses Logan from a church in Polmi Village was attacked by a violent mob during Sunday prayer service. Logan’s family was brutally beaten, and the church desecrated. The attackers dragged Logan to the local police station, but no case was filed against him for alleged conversions. Dozens of other attempts were made to file cases against Christians, but the police often refused to do so on account of pressure from the ruling Indian National Congress party in Chhattisgarh.
The INC has meanwhile said that there was no endemic of forced conversions in Chhattisgarh and no evidence existed to act against it. Congress member Mahendra Chhabda told the Guardian that the BJP was using the same tactic to garner votes as they did in the rest of India by waging violence against Muslims. Christian community leaders in Chhattisgarh also told the news outlet that they were not involved in conversion and only distributed bibles to slums and villages in the region. Chhabda has insisted Christians to stop distributing the religious scripture to ease the rising tensions in the state.