Hindu Nation: India's Religious Cleansing

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NEW DELHI, India - It was perhaps one of the worst attacks on Christians ever in India's history.

December 2007, hundreds of Hindu radicals destroyed more than 700 Christian homes in India's eastern state of Orissa.

"The Hindu mob threatened us saying that India belongs to Hindus, Christians do not belong here," said Obed Diggal, a resident of the Kandhamal District.

Some 95 churches were demolished or burned to the ground.

"They warned us that if we rebuild the churches they would kill us; they would break our body into pieces just like they broke our church into pieces," another resident Nabaghana Naik said.

The man, whose group is suspected of taking part in the attacks, told CBN News that peace will come only when Christians in India stop proselytizing.

"This is my message to the Christians: Stop your conversions or you will learn a lesson from the Hindu society!" Hindu Umasankar Acharya said.

Acharya didn't say what that lesson would be, but his Hindu extremist organization, Bajrang Dal often uses violence against Christians.

Bajrang Dal and other radical groups are trying to turn India into a Hindu nation- what many people would even call a fundamentalist state.

"The goal of the Hindu radicals is to destroy India's reputation as a secular and pluralistic democracy and replace it with an explicitly Hindu identity."

'Hindutva'

Ram Madhav is a spokesman for the RSS, a right-wing Hindu supremacist organization.

"Just as America belongs to Americans, Britain belongs to British, Germany belongs to Germans, he maybe a Muslim, he maybe a Christian, he maybe a Jew. Similarly, India belongs to Hindus, it is a Hindustan," Madhav said.

He claims that Hindus are the original creators of Indian culture and that they are descendants from an "Aryan" race. All others are "aliens" or "invaders." These and other extremist views form their ideology known as "Hindutva."

"Hindutva ideology is basically fascist -- that propagates one nation, one language, one people, one caste, one religion," human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash said.

While the number of people who subscribe to the Hindutva ideology is relatively small, their influence and popularity are growing in Indian society.

"Many of them are in key positions, they have, if I can use the word, infiltrated the administration, the judiciary," said Tehmina Arora of the Christian Legal Association.

And they're especially angry that Indian Christians and foreign missionaries are sharing the Gospel with lower-caste Hindus known as Untouchables or Dalits.

"Hinduism never asks the Christians or the Muslims to convert to Hinduism, but these Christians are always trying to decrease the population of Hindus by converting them to Christianity," Acharya said.

Dalits make up one-fifth of India's one billion plus population. They live on the margins of society, and are often considered by Hindus as less than human. But a growing number of them are turning to Christianity.

Dr. Sajan George is a Dalit convert and a member of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

"On arrival of Christianity as they started loving God they are being treated like human beings by Christians which is unacceptable to the higher caste system." George said.

The Biggest Killer? The Silent Majority

But their conversions aren't without a cost. Indian newspapers and human rights groups document the almost daily attacks against Dalits and other Christians.

"We are asking the Lord to give us more boldness, to give us the strength to bear His name and to stand strong in the face of terrible persecution," Dalit convert Sunderson Digal said.

Analysts warn that unless these radical Hindu groups are reined-in, violence against Christians will continue.

An investigation into the attacks in Orissa showed that the violence was premeditated and that state government and law enforcement officials had prior knowledge of a potential attack - but did nothing to prevent it.

Church leaders here are asking their fellow countrymen to end their silence and to speak out on behalf of those being persecuted for their faith.

"Where is the collective conscious of this country?" George asked. "Are they dead now or are they just being silent supporters? The silent majority is the biggest killer."

*Original broadcast February 1, 2008.

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