Indian Christians on Edge After Political Victory for Hindu Nationalists

by John Stonestreet

Two weeks ago, Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second term as India’s Prime Minister. His party, the BJP, won a resounding victory in parliamentary elections.

As Indian pundits – a word that is, by the way, of Indian origin – will tell you, if Modi and the BJP were the obvious winners, their political rivals, the Congress Party, were the big losers. But there’s another potential loser in these elections, one that should especially concern American Christians, and that’s Indian Christians.

To understand why, you need to understand Hindutva, which is the BJP’s governing ideology. It literally means “Hinduness,” and defines what it means to be an Indian in religious—to be specific, Hindu—terms. Hindutva regards Christianity and Islam as foreign religions, and therefore any Indian who claims to be a Christian or a Muslim is less than truly Indian. According to this ideology, Hinduism is central to what it means to be an Indian.

While most of the world mistakenly sees India as a land of Gandhi, gurus, and nonviolence, there’s nothing peaceful or tolerant about Hindutva. For instance, the man who assassinated Gandhi was an adherent of Hindutva who felt Gandhi had betrayed the Hindu community.

In the run-up to the election, one BJP candidate called Gandhi’s assassin “a patriot.” Though Modi denounced the comments, they are consistent with the principles of Hindutva. More concerning are the many examples of Hindutva-inspired persecution of Christians in India, especially in the five years since the BJP first came to power.

In the weeks before the election, there were reports of “food deprivation, beatings, and jail” directed at Christian converts in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand.

As Open Doors put it, “because radical Hindu nationalists view followers of Jesus as alien to the nation, all Christians in India are suffering persecution. Driven by a desire to cleanse their country from Islam and Christianity, nationalists do not shy away from using extensive violence to achieve their goals.”

Part of their campaign to cleanse India of Christians involves anti-conversion laws. At least six Indian states effectively prohibit conversions to Christianity. I say “effectively,” because Hindu nationalists there have found a way around the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Indian constitution. Any conversion that results from “force, allurement or fraudulent means” is illegal. Given the vagueness of these terms, Indian law empowers ideologically-driven local officials to view all conversions as guilty until proven innocent.

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Source: Christian Headlines