Six Christians were badly injured in an attack by Hindu extremists in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, after a dispute about the burial of a Christian baby.
The incident occurred on 27 February in Tangaguda, a town in Malkangiri District, where three Christian families live alongside 35 Hindu families.
After one of the Christian families lost their two-year-old daughter, they prepared for her burial. But some Hindus from the village demanded that the girl be buried outside the village, a source said.
To settle the dispute the bereaved family paid the equivalent of 80 USD to bury their daughter child on land that they owned.
‘HATRED AND DISCRIMINATION’
The night that the Christian family buried their little girl, 30 extremists arrived at their home and set it on fire. While the mother, Debe Nande, was able to escape, her husband, Sukra Markhami, and their other daughter, 12-year-old Savitha, were beaten and left unconscious. Savitha sustained a critical head injury.
The source reported that some of the other Christian families who came to help were also attacked. Jaga Markhami, was left with a broken hand while another neighbour, Danga Markhami, sustained a broken leg as he tried to fight off the attackers. Two others were also injured and taken to hospital.
Catholic priest Manoj Kumar Nayak told Agenzia Fides: “In Orissa [the former name for Odisha] there is still hatred and discrimination against Christians, and there are failings to meet the legitimate needs of Christian minorities.”
While those injured are being treated in hospital, the other Christians have been taken to a safe place elsewhere.
RADICAL HINDUISM ON THE RISE
In January 2018 alone there were 78 reports of hate crimes against Christians in India. The recorded cases included one of murder, eight cases of physical violence, six cases of damage to church property and seven cases of forced expulsion from homes.
Since the Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014, radical Hinduism has increased steadily. Several states outlaw proselytism, and there have been efforts to impose such so-called ‘anti-conversion laws’ at a national level. The violence of radical Hindu groups or angry mobs of villagers is often allowed by local, state and national authorities dominated by the BJP. This means Hindu radicals can act with increasing impunity. This year’s elections of state legislative and other bodies in India are seen as crucial, especially for the ruling BJP, in the run up to the general elections next year.
General secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Rev. Vijayesh Lal, told World Watch Monitor last month that the situation for Indian Christians was ‘deteriorating pretty rapidly’. He said he feared that ‘the worst will unfold in 2019’, suggesting that there could be a further escalation in anti-Christian violence around the spring elections, as Christians were seen as a threat to ‘Hindu India’.