Extremist Hindu Nationalism Targets Christians and Other Religious Minorities in India

Statue of meditating Hindu god Shiva against the red sky on the Ganges River at Rishikesh village in India, close up.

By Jason Scott Jones Published on June 22, 2024

As followers of Christ, it is our duty to show compassion to those in need and advocate for those who are suffering persecution. Despite their distance from us and our unfamiliarity with them and their cultures, we must not overlook or disregard those bravely enduring the impact of injustice in our world.

India stands out as a troubling hotspot of minority persecution and religiously motivated killings. It’s been heartbreaking to witness the increase in crimes committed by Hindu extremists over the past few years, thanks to the rule of the Hindu supremacist political party in the country.

It is even more concerning how these groups of extremists and religious oppressors have managed to align politically with certain U.S. conservatives. Donald Trump garners praise and admiration from Hindu supremacists in India, just as there are fervent supporters of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi within conservative U.S. circles. It is imperative that we crush this malevolent force before its reach extends throughout the United States and the developed West.

Killing for Honor

The rise of Hindu supremacist extremism has in a way emboldened people to commit religious crimes against minorities, which includes Muslims, Christians, and even Dalit Hindus from lower castes. At a 2022 conference, a Hindu extremist encouraged supporters to kill Muslims and “protect” the country. One such growing crime is “honor killing” and abuse. This is the murder of a person, typically by the victim’s own relatives, to uphold the family’s “dignity” and “honor” in cases involving interreligious marriages or relationships.

Interfaith — and even inter-caste — marriages — involving Hindus can provoke intense backlash from conservative elements in India. The persistence of this practice is deeply rooted in India’s rigid caste system and patriarchal norms, and is now supercharged by the extreme right wing Hindutva movement.

Law enforcement agencies seem to be silent about these instances of minority persecution by Hindu supremacists. This unfair and prejudiced treatment is particularly noticeable in cases of beef lynching.

Human Blood Cheaper than Cows’?

Vigilante gangs have killed dozens of people since 2015, most of whom were Muslims, for allegedly killing or eating cows (an animal Hindus revere). South Asia Human Rights Watch Director Meenakshi Ganguly says the call for protecting cows “has transformed into a free pass for mobs to violently attack and kill members of minority groups.”

In 2019, a 50-year-old Christian man was killed and three others were beaten by a mob for cutting up a dead bull. In the eastern province of Jharkhand, a lynch mob killed a Christian accused of selling beef. In the same province, last September seven Christians belonging to the Khariya tribal group were attacked by a Hindu supremacist mob of nearly 70 people.

In 2021, a man was beaten by a group with sticks for transporting buffalo meat on a scooter. The police later filed a case against the victim and not the mob! Another Muslim man was mob lynched near Mumbai. “It was supposed to be his birthday,” a relative said. “His wife is inconsolable. He has two daughters aged six and four. He comes from a poor family.”

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In 2023, a Muslim man transporting cattle was stopped and killed by right-wing activists in the Indian state of Karnataka. Despite carrying proper documents for the purchase of cattle, the religious mob attacked three Muslim men, eventually killing one. Later that year, a religious mob of 20 killed another man for carrying beef in the state of Bihar. And last month, a Hindutva mob lynched cattle transporters in Raipur, leaving three dead. Last week, nearly a dozen houses belonging to people of minority religions were razed after the inhabitants were accused of sheltering cows meant for slaughter.

Gyan Dev Ahuja, a politician belonging to Modi’s (BJP), said in a 2022 viral video that he is proud of organizing the mob lynchings of Muslims who carry beef or cattle for slaughter: “We have killed five of them so far, be it in Lalwandi, be it Behror … I have given a free hand to the workers, kill those ****** behind cow slaughter…. We will get you acquitted, we will get you out on bail too.”

Christians Targeted, Too

This is the reality for Muslims in India. While less severe in comparison, Christians have also been facing life-threatening assaults, with attacks persisting against both individuals and communities.

After becoming the first member of his village to embrace Christianity, an evangelist was kicked out of the town by feudal Hindu leaders and banned from visiting his own family.

A wave of violence in Manipur in 2023 stands out as a heinous assault on Christian beliefs. During this dark chapter, numerous churches and residences owned by Christians were torched. Tragically, Christians faced unimaginable horrors, including rape and murder, prompting entire communities to abandon their homes and seek refuge in distant corners of India.

Before President Joe Biden’s visit to India last year, the press asked the administration about its concerns with religious persecution in India.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has been urging the Biden administration to address the growing religious persecution in India. The group wants wants the U.S. Department of State to designate India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. So far, it has not.

Perhaps it is time for U.S. conservatives to analyze the gruesome religious persecution India’s Hindutva majority is promoting before they embrace India as an ally, or Hindu nationalists as fellow warriors against global jihad. Let’s ensure the U.S. remains a protector of the persecuted, not a supporter of religious persecution.

 

Jason Jones is a film producer, author, activist, popular podcast host, and human rights worker. He is president of the Human-Rights Education and Relief Organization (H.E.R.O.), known for its two main programs, the Vulnerable People Project and Movie to Movement. He was the first recipient of the East Turkistan Order of Friend-ship Medal for his advocacy of the Uyghur people. Jones was an executive producer of Bella and an associate producer of The Stoning of Soraya M. His humanitarian efforts have aided millions in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and the Ukraine, as well as pregnancy centers and women’s shelters throughout North America. Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream and the host of The Jason Jones Show. He is also the author of three books, The Race to Save Our Century, The World Is on Fire, and his latest book The Great Campaign Against the Great Reset. His latest film, Divided Hearts of America, is available on Amazon Prime.

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