Although Christians in India are now being persecuted on a daily basis, clergymen are often the first to be singled out because of their high visibility in small religious communities. Rural clergy of all Christian denominations are being targeted in particular by right wing Hindu nationalist groups.
In 2013, 70-year-old Indian pastor Rev Krupaiah and fifty other pastors, who got together for prayer and fellowship in an independent church in Tukkuguda, were attacked by dozens of Hindu radicals. They were falsely accused of being involved in forced religious conversions. Krupaiah was brutally beaten and seriously injured. He was rushed to hospital but never fully recovered and died this year as a result of his injuries.
In Orissa state Sisir Nayak, the pastor of a church in the village of Raiguda, was arrested and imprisoned recently after local Hindus accused him of “illegally” converting 300 members of the Munda tribe to Christianity.
It is not just parish priests who are coming under attack. In some cases entire Christian communities have been attacked and threatened, especially when they are poor and of low caste. A church in Asroi village, about 100 miles south-east of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, was turned into a temple and members of the congregation were forcefully converted to Hinduism. This church had been a place of worship for Dalit Christians who occupy the lowest level of India’s caste.
On June 14 more than 200 Hindu nationalists interrupted a service in a community hall in Attingal, Kerala where 400 converts to Christianity gather every Sunday for worship. Some Hindus eventually forced their way into the hall shouting slogans and started beating the pastor and his congregation. They damaged the pulpit and the sound system and desecrated the communion elements. Christians who fled the hall were beaten up outside by a Hindu mob that was waiting in ambush. Although the police station was close to the community hall, police took 30 minutes to arrive on the scene.
When 500 Christians organized a peaceful protest march in Attingal the day after the attack, the local Hindu nationalist group led a counter protest with placards carrying anti-Christian slogans. The Hindus threatened to wipe out any remaining Christians in Attingal and even burn their pastor alive if they continued to hold Christian services.
An even more horrific persecution took place in Assam State in northeast India where the entire population of a Christian village was forced to abandon their home and flee from Hindu attackers. Christians comprise only four percent of the population of Assam. After the evening service in Amtola village, a mob of about 100 Hindus armed with swords, sticks and stones attacked worshippers injuring at least 15 villagers. Christian homes were then looted or razed to the ground, leaving the Christians who fled for their lives with nothing to return to. Once again, the police took a long time to turn up and only appeared after the mob had destroyed the village. No action was taken against the Hindu attackers who brutally beat women and children or their leaders. There are no Christians left in Amtola.
Extremist fringe groups are now also targeting Christian institutions because they serve the poor and marginalized and empower them through education. Two Christian schools in the city of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand State were attacked by a mob of over 60 Hindu nationalists, mostly members of the ruling Hindu nationalist party, because these schools did not have a statue of the Hindu god of learning or a picture of Indian PM Narendra Modi.