Religious violence in India

Religious violence in India

Religious violence in India includes acts of violence by followers of one religious group against followers and institutions of another religious group, often in the form of rioting.[1] Religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism have survived peacefully with Hindus for thousands of years.

Despite the secular and religiously tolerant constitution of India, broad religious representation in various aspects of society including the government, the active role played by autonomous bodies such as National Human Rights Commission of India and National Commission for Minorities, and the ground-level work being carried out by Non-governmental organizations, sporadic and sometimes serious acts of religious violence tend to occur as the root causes of religious violence often run deep in history, religious activities, and politics of India.[2][3][4][5]

Along with domestic organizations, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch publish reports [6] on acts of religious violence in India.


Ancient India

Ancient India has no history of large scale religious violence.[7][8]

The Divyavadana ascribes to him the razing of stupas and viharas built by Ashoka, the placing of a bounty of 100 dinaras upon the heads of Buddhist monks (bhiksus) and describes him as one who wanted to undo the work of Ashoka.[9] This account has however been described as "exaggerated".[9] Archaeological evidence is scarce and uncertain.[10] However to many scholars, Sunga kings were seen as more amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut.[11]

With the possible exception of reign of King Pusyamitra, Buddhism and Hinduism seem to have co-existed peacefully with almost all Buddhist temples, including the once at Ajanta Caves, being built under the rule and patronage of Hindu kings;[12] along with Jainism and other religions and there were no anti-religious bloodshed.

Medieval India

Muhammad bin Qasim

Photograph of the Surya Temple, The most impressive and grandest ruins in Kashmir, at Marttand-Hardy Cole's Archaeological Survey of India Report 'Illustrations of Ancient Buildings in Kashmir.' (1869)

Muhammad bin Qasim, during his conquest of Sindh (in present day Pakistan), assaulted the town of Debal and destroyed its great temple .[13] He then built a mosque over the remains of the original temple at Debal and later in towns of Nerun and Sadusan (Sehwan)[13][14] After each battle all fighting men were executed and their wives and children enslaved. One fifth of the booty and slaves were dispatched back to Hajjaj and the Caliph.[13] Chach Nama also records instances of conversion of stupas to mosques such as at Nerun.

After the conquest, Muhammad bin Qasim adopted a controversial policy, asking for acceptance of Islamic Sharia law, in return for non-interference in their religious practice,.[15] No further mass conversions were attempted and the destruction of temples such as the Sun Temple at Multan was forbidden.[13]

Mahmud of Ghazni

Somanatha Temple Prabhas Patan, Gujarat, from the Archaeological Survey of India, taken by D.H. Sykes in c.1869

Mahmud of Ghazni was a Sultan who invaded the Indian subcontinent from present-day Afghanistan during the early 11th century. His campaigns across the gangetic plains are often cited[citation needed] for their iconoclastic plundering and destruction of Hindu temples such as those at Mathura, Dwarka, and others. In 1024 AD, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and destroyed the third Somnath temple killing over 50,000 and personally destroying the Shiva lingam after stripping it of its gold.[16]


Aurangzeb cherished the ambition of converting India into a land of Islam and his reign was particularly brutal. Aurangzeb banned Hindu festival of Diwali, placed a jizya (tax) on non-Muslims and killed the ninth Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur.

Tipu Sultan

The Jamalabad fort route. Mangalorean Catholics had traveled through this route on their way to Srirangapatanam

The ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan is regarded to be anti-Christian by many historians.[17][18][19] The captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.[20]

The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: "All Musalmans should unite together, and considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, labor to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject."[21] Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu gained control of Canara.[22] He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates,[23] and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.[24] However, there were no priests among the captives. Together with Father Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rupees 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.[21]

Tipu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches, all beautifully carved with statues depicting various saints. Among them included the Church of Nossa Senhora de Rosario Milagres at Mangalore, Fr Miranda's Seminary at Monte Mariano, Church of Jesu Marie Jose at Omzoor, Chapel at Bolar, Church of Merces at Ullal, Imaculata Conceiciao at Mulki, San Jose at Perar, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios at Kirem, Sao Lawrence at Karkal, Rosario at Barkur, Immaculata Conceciao at Baidnur.[21] All were razed to the ground, with the exception of The Church of Holy Cross at Hospet, owing to the friendly offices of the Chauta Raja of Moodbidri.[25]

According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 people,[26] nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured; only 7,000 escaped. Francis Buchanan gives the numbers as 70,000 captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000 of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there.[27] The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears.[28] According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.[29]

The Archbishop of Goa wrote in 1800, "It is notoriously known in all Asia and all other parts of the globe of the oppression and sufferings experienced by the Christians in the Dominion of the King of Kanara, during the usurpation of that country by Tipu Sultan from an implacable hatred he had against them who professed Christianity."[21]

The British officer James Scurry, who was detained a prisoner for 10 years by Tipu Sultan along with the Mangalorean Catholics

Tipu Sultan's rule of the Malabar coast had an adverse impact on the Syrian Malabar Nasrani community. Many churches in the Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the centre of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tipu's soldiers. A lot of centuries old religious manuscripts were lost forever.[30] The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tipu's army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Syrian Malabar Nasrani were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, arecanut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Syrian Malabar farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tipu's army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Macqulay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.[30]

Tipu's persecution of Christians even extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant number of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the 1780 Battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls. After the 10 year long captivity ended, James Scurry, one of those prisoners, recounted that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair and use a knife and fork. His English was broken and stilted, having lost all his vernacular idiom. His skin had darkened to the swarthy complexion of negroes, and moreover, he had developed an aversion to wearing European clothes.[31]

During the surrender of the Mangalore fort which was delivered in an armistice by the British and their subsequent withdrawal, all the Mestizos and remaining non-British foreigners were killed, together with 5,600 Mangalorean Catholics. Those condemned by Tipu Sultan for treachery were hanged instantly, the gibbets being weighed down by the number of bodies they carried. The Netravati River was so putrid with the stench of dying bodies, that the local residents were forced to leave their riverside homes.[21]

Hindus, particularly the Nair and Kodava communities were also persecuted by Tipu Sultan. They were subjected to forcible conversions to Islam, death, and torture.[32][33] The Nairs were treated with extreme brutality by the Muslims due to their strong adherence to the Hindu faith and martial tradition.[34][35][36] The captivity ended when Nair troops from Travancore, with the help of the East India Company defeated Tippu Sultan in the Third Anglo-Mysore War.[37][38] It is estimated that out of the 30,000 Nairs put to captivity (including women and children), only a few hundred returned to Malabar alive.[38][39]

In 1783, the Kodavas erupted in revolt against Tippu Sultan and threw their forces out of Kodagu. In 1785, Tippu declared the Kodava of being guilty of polyandry.[40] He threatened the Kodavas that he would not revile or molest a single individual among them and instead make Ahmadis (Muslims) out of the whole of them, transplanting them from their homeland in the Coorg to Seringapatam.[41]

Tippu gave the task of implementing the orders to Runmust Khan, the Nawab of Kurool. This task was accomplished when in a surprise attack, the Kodavas were besieged by the invading Muslim army. 500 were killed and over 40,000 Kodavas fled to the woods and concealed themselves in the mountains.[41] Thousands of Kodava Hindus were seized along with the Raja, Dodda Vira-Rajendra, and held them captive at Seringapatam. They were also subjected to forcible conversions to Islam, death, and torture.[40]

Colonial Era

Goa Inquisition

St. Francis Xavier who requested the Inquisition in 1545

The first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, established themselves in what was formerly the king of Goa's palace, forcing the Portuguese viceroy to relocate to a smaller residence. The inquisitor's first act was forbidding Hindus from the public practice of their faith through fear of death. Sephardic Jews living in Goa, many of whom had fled the Iberian Peninsula to escape the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition to begin with, were also persecuted. During the Goa Inquisition, described as "contrary to humanity" by Voltaire ,[42] conversions to Catholicism occurred by force and many native Goans were executed by the Portuguese.[43][44] The adverse effects of the inquisition were tempered somewhat by the fact that Hindus were able to escape Portuguese hegemony by migrating to other parts of the subcontinent.[45] Though officially repressed in 1774, it was reinstated by Queen Maria I in 1778. The last vestiges of the Goa Inquisition were finally swept away when the British occupied the city in 1812.

Indian Rebellion of 1857

In 1813, East India Company charter was amended to allow for government sponsored missionary activity across British India.[46] The missionaries soon spread almost everywhere and started denigrating Hinduism and Islam, besides promoting Christianity, in order to seek converts.[47] Many officers of the British East India Company, such as Herbert Edwardes and Colonel S.G. Wheeler, openly preached to the Sepoys.[48] Such activities caused a great deal of resentment and fear of forced conversions among Indian soldiers of the Company and civilians alike.[47] The perception that the company was trying to convert Hindus and Muslims to Christianity is often cited as one of the causes of the revolt. The revolt is considered by some historians as a semi-national and religious war seeking freedom from English bondage [49][50] though Saul David questions this interpretation.[51] The revolt started, among the Indian soldiers of British East India Company, when the British introduced new rifle cartridges, rumored to be greased with pig and cow fat - an abhorrent concept to Muslim and Hindu soldiers, respectively, for religious reasons. However, in the aftermath of the revolt, British reprisals were particularly severe with hundreds of thousands being killed. While the death toll is often debated by historians with figures ranging between one hundred thousand and one million, it is usually agreed that several hundred thousands were killed.[52]

Moplah Rebellion

Moplah Rebellion was an Anti Hindu rebellion conducted by the Muslim Mappila community (Moplah is a British spelling) of Kerala in 1921. Inspired by the Khilafat movement and the Karachi resolution; Moplahs murdered, pillaged, and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus.[53][54] 100,000 Hindus[55] were driven away from their homes forcing to leave their property behind, which were later took over by Mappilas. This greatly changed the demographics of the area, being the major cause behind today's Malappuram district being a Muslim majority district in Kerala. According to one view, the reasons for the Moplah rebellion was religious revivalism among the Muslim Mappilas, and hostility towards the landlord Hindu Nair, Nambudiri Jenmi community and the British administration that supported the latter. Adhering to view, British records call it a British-Muslim revolt. The initial focus was on the government, but when the limited presence of the government was eliminated, Moplahs turned their full attention on attacking Hindus. Mohommed Haji was proclaimed the Caliph of the Moplah Khilafat and flags of Islamic Caliphate were flown. Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat kingdoms.[56]

Annie Besant wrote about the riots: "They Moplahs murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed or drove away all Hindus who would not apostatise. Somewhere about a lakh (100,000) of people were driven from their homes with nothing but their clothes they had on, stripped of everything. Malabar has taught us what Islamic rule still means, and we do not want to see another specimen of the Khilafat Raj in India."[55]

Partition of British India

A railway station in Punjab during large-scale migration that followed partition of India along religious lines.

Direct Action Day, which started on 16 August 1946, led approximately 3000 dead and 17000 injured.[57]

After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British followed a divide-and-rule policy, exploiting differences between communities, in order to prevent similar revolts from taking place. In that respect, Indian Muslims were encouraged to forge a cultural and political identity separate from the Hindus.[58] In the years leading up to Independence, Mohammad Ali Jinnah became increasingly concerned about minority position of Islam in an independent India largely composed of a Hindu majority. Although a partition plan was accepted, no large population movements were contemplated. As India and Pakistan become independent, 14.5 million people crossed borders to ensure their safety in an increasingly lawless and communal environment. While the British authority was gone, the newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border along communal lines. Estimates of the number of deaths range around roughly 500,000, with low estimates at 200,000 and high estimates at 1,000,000.[59]

Modern India

Constitutionally India is a secular state, [60] but large-scale violence have periodically occurred in India since independence. In recent decades, communal tensions and religion-based politics have become more prominent.

1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

Sikh man being beaten to death

For several decades after Partitions, Sikhs in Punjab had complained about domination by the Hindu majority.[61] In a 1975 court case, Indira Gandhi was found guilty of electoral malpractice which barred her from government offices for six years and opposition parties staged protests to demand her resignation. In response, she declared a State of Emergency during which she jailed thousands of opposition members, censored the press, postponed elections, and changed the constitutional law she was convicted of violating. During the Indian Emergency, thousands of Sikhs campaigning for autonomous government and against the "fascist tendency" of the Central Government[62] were imprisoned.[61] As a result of their "Campaign to Save Democracy", out of 140,000 people arrested without trial during the Indian Emergency, 40,000 were Sikhs.[63]

In later elections she supported the politics Jarnail Bhindranwale, a religious conservative, in an effort to undermine the Akali Dal, the largest Sikh political party. However, Bhindranwale began to oppose the central government and moved his political base to the environs of the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab. While there he gained considerable political power and disrupted the local state machinery. In June 1984, under orders from Indira Gandhi, the Indian army attacked the Darbar Sahib with tanks and armoured vehicles.[64] Although the operation was militarily successful, it aroused tremendous controversy, and the government's justification for the timing and style of the attack are highly debated.[65] In response, some Sikhs and some Punjabi Hindus began a separatist campaign to free Punjab from the Indian Government.[66]

Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by two of her bodyguards in retaliation for the storming of the Golden temple. After the assassination the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms took place in Delhi, where government and police officials aided Congress party worker gangs in "methodically and systematically" targeting Sikhs and Sikh homes.[67] As a result of the pogroms 10,000-17,000 were burned alive or otherwise killed, Sikh people suffered massive property damage, and "at least 50,000" Sikhs became displaced persons.[68] To date, the Government of India has not prosecuted any of the assailants.[67] The attack on the Harmandir Sahib and the 1984 Anti-Sikh pogroms led to the increasing popularity of the Khalistan movement. From 1987 until 1992, the Indian government dismissed the elected government of the state, banned elections and imposed direct rule.[69]

In the peak years of the insurgency, religious violence by separatists, government-sponsored groups, and the paramilitary arms of the government was endemic on all sides. Human Rights Watch reports that separatists were responsible for "massacre of civilians, attacks upon Hindu minorities in the state, indiscriminate bomb attacks in crowded places, and the assassination of a number of political leaders".[70] According to Human Rights Watch, the Indian Government's response "led to the arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial execution, and enforced disappearance of thousands of Sikhs".[70] The government generally targeted "young Sikh men on suspicion that they were involved in the militancy" but would later deny having them in custody, as a result, many of the victims of enforced disappearances are believed to have been killed.[70] The insurgency resulted in the paralyzation of Punjab's economy until normalization in 1993.[70]

Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits

A Kashmiri child, killed along with several others to eliminate Kashmir Pundits via "Systematic efforts" and violent methods.

In the Kashmir region, approximately 300 Kashmiri Pandits were killed between September 1989 to 1990 in various incidents.[71] In early 1990, local Urdu newspapers Aftab and Al Safa called upon Kashmiris to wage jihad against India and ordered the expulsion of all Hindus choosing to remain in Kashmir.[71] In the following days masked men ran in the streets with AK-47 shooting to kill Hindus who would not leave.[71] Notices were placed on the houses of all Hindus, telling them to leave within 24 hours or die.[71]

Since March 1990, estimates of between 500,000 to 750,000 pandits have migrated outside Kashmir[citation needed] due to persecution by Islamic fundamentalists in the largest case of ethnic cleansing since the partition of India.[72] The proportion of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley has declined from about 15% in 1947 to, by some estimates, less than 0.1% since the insurgency in Kashmir took on a religious and sectarian flavor.[73]

Many Kashmiri Pandits have been killed by Islamist militants in incidents such as the Wandhama massacre and the 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre.[74][75][76][77][78] The incidents of massacring and forced eviction have been termed ethnic cleansing by some observers.[71]

Religious involvement in North-East India Militancy

Religion has begun to play an increasing role in reinforcing ethnic divides among the decades old militant separatist movements in north-east India.[79][80][81]

The separatist group National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) seeks to convert all tribals in the state of Tripura, who are mostly Hindu or Buddhist, to Christianity. It has proclaimed bans on Hindu worship and has attacked animist Reangs and Hindu Jamatia tribesmen who resisted. Some resisting tribal leaders have been killed and their womenfolk raped. The RSS has attempted to counter Christian separatist groups by backing Reang and Jamatia tribals, and has called for the central government to help arm and fund them.[80]

Hindu nationalists, upset with the rapid spread of Chistianity in the region, link the overt Christian religiosity of the groups and the local churches' liberation theology-based doctrine to allege church support for ethnic separatism.[80] Vatsala Vedantam identifies statements from the American Baptist Churches USA as endorsing the Naga separatist cause.[82]

According to The Government of Tripura, the Baptist Church of Tripura is involved in supporting the NLFT and arrested two church officials in 2000, one of them for possessing explosives.[83] In late 2004, the National Liberation Front of Tripura banned all Hindu celebrations of Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja.[84] The Naga insurgency, ethnic separtism reinforced in their identity by Christianity, has been repeatedly involved in violence against Hindus in the region.[85][86][87][88]

The United States does not designate as terrorist organizations most of those groups that continue violent separatist struggles in India’s northeastern states.[89]

Anti Muslim Violence

The 16th Century Babri Mosque was destroyed by the members of VHP and Bajrang Dal in 1992,[90] resulting in nationwide religious riots.

The history of modern India is densely spotted by the communal violence which, in most cases, proved to be state-backed, and police played an active and biased role in carrying out cold blooded massacres,acts of rape and damaging properties of the minority communities especially Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. tensions between Hindu and Muslim started coming to light a few years before the independence of the Indian-sub continent and as per the Pakistani historians, anti-Muslims riots were one of the reasons which led to the creations of Pakistan. These riots were provoked by colonizers and Indian politicians for personal gains and vested interests. India have risen[91] and has led to several major incidences of religious violence such as Hashimpura massacre (1987), Bombay riots, 1993 Bombay bombings, Godhra Train Burning, and 2002 Gujarat violence.

Archaeological excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1970, 1992 and 2003 in and around the disputed site have indicated a large Hindu complex existed on the site.[92] In 2003, by the order of an Indian Court, The Archaeological Survey of India was asked to conduct a more indepth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble.[93] The summary of the ASI report [94] indicated definite proof of a temple under the mosque. In the words of ASI researchers, they discovered "distinctive features associated with... temples of north India". The excavations yielded:

stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of a divine couple and carved architectural features, including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, broke octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure" [95]

On 6 December 1992, members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal destroyed the 430 year old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya,[90] allegedly built over the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama. This action caused great anger in the Muslim community. The resulting religious riots caused at least 1200 deaths.[96][97] Reprisals against Hindu minorities also occurred in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Since then the Government of India has blocked off or heavily increased security at these disputed sites while encouraging attempts to resolve these disputes through court cases and negotiations.[98]

In the aftermatch of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya by Hindu nationalists on 6 December 1992, roiting took place between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Mumbai. 500 Muslims died in the resulting violence. Four people died in a fire in the Asalpha timber mart at Ghatkopar, five were killed in the burning of Bainganwadi; shacks along the harbor line track between Sewri and Cotton Green stations were gutted; and a couple was pulled out of a rickshaw in Asalpha village and burnt to death.[99] The riots changed the demographics of Mumbai greatly, as Hindus moved to Hindu-majority areas and Muslims moved to Muslim-majority areas.

Many Ahmedabad's buildings were set on fire during 2002 Gujarat violence.

Later on 27 February 2002, the Godhra train burning incident occurred in the town of Godhra in the Indian state of Gujarat, One of the coaches (Coach #S6) of a train named the "Sabarmati Express" was set on fire right after it left the train station. The coach was occupied by Hindu religious pilgrims called Kar Sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya. 58 Hindu pilgrims (23 men, 15 women and 20 children) who were inside, were burnt alive, and the coach was completely gutted by the fire. On 22 February 2011 a special court convicted 31 people for perpetrating the burning. Another 63 people, including the key accused, Maulvi Umarji, were acquitted by the special court. However the other prominent people to be accused Haji Billa and Rajjak Kurkur were convicted.[100] The court upheld that the incident had been a planned conspiracy, explicitly citing the "scientific evidence, statement of witnesses, circumstantial and documentary evidence," upholding the Nanavati report, and discrediting the Banerjee commission.[100]

The Godhra train burning incident led to the 2002 Gujarat riots in which mostly Muslims were killed in an apaprent act of retaliation. According to the death toll given to the parliament on 11 May 2005 by the government, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, and another 2,548 injured. 223 people are missing. The report placed the number of riot widows at 919 and 606 children were declared orphaned.[101][102][103] According to hone advocacy group, the death tolls were up to 2000.[104][105][106][107][108] According to the Congressional Research Service, up to 2000 people, mostly Muslim were killed in the violence.[109] Tens of thousands were displaced from their homes because of the violence. The large-scale, collective violence has been described by some as a "massacre" and an attempted pogrom or genocide[110] of the Muslim population. According to New York Times reporter Celia Williams Dugger, witnesses were "dismayed by the lack of intervention from local police", who often "watched the events taking place and took no action against the attacks on Muslims and their property".[111] Sangh leaders[112][113] as well as the Gujarat government[114][115] maintain that the violence was rioting or inter-communal clashes - spontaneous and uncontrollable reaction to the Godhra train burning.

Anti-Christian violence

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on Christians in India, often perpetrated by Hindu Nationalists.[116] Between 1964 and 1996, thirty-eight incidents of violence against Christians were reported.[117] In 1997, twenty-four such incidents were reported.[118] In 1998, it went up to ninety.[117] Between January 1998 and February 1999 alone, one hundred and sixteen attacks against Christians in India were reported by church.[119] Between 1 January and 30 July 2000, more than fifty-seven attacks on Christians were reported.[120] These acts of violence include forcible reconversion of converted Christians back to Hinduism, distribution of threatening literature and destruction of Christian cemeteries.[116][117][120]

In some cases, anti-Christian violence has been co-ordinated, involving multiple attacks. In Orissa, starting December 2007, Christians have been attacked in Kandhamal and other districts, resulting in the deaths of two Hindus and one Christian, and the destruction of houses and churches.[121][122][123][124][125] Twenty people were arrested following the attacks on churches.[124] Similarly, starting 14 September 2008, there were numerous incidents of violence against the Christian community in Karnataka. These were ignited by the New Light Church's distributing offensive literature that portrayed incorrect and demeaning interpretation of Hindu gods.

Foreign Christian missionaries have mostly been targets of attacks.[126] In a well-publicised case Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, was burnt to death while he was sleeping with his two sons Timothy (aged 9) and Philip (aged 7) in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Orissa in January 1999.[116][126][127][128] In 2003, Dara Singh was convicted of leading the gang responsible.[129][130][131] According to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, "Conversion nowadays has become a matter of business, like any other. India (Hindus) is in no need of conversion of this kind. That however is never what is meant by proselytization. To those who would convert India (Hindus), might it not be said, "Physician, heal yourself." (Young India: 23 April 1931)

In its annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians."[132] The report listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christian pilgrims.[132] The Indian organizations responded by alleging the numerous Christian missions present on Indian soil converting Hindus by fraud and money.

In 2007 and 2008 there was a further flare up of tensions in Orissa, the first following the Christians' putting up a Pandhal in land traditionally used by Hindus and the second after the unprovoked murder of a Hindu Saint and four of his disciples while observing Janmashtami puja. Then, a 150-year-old church in Madhya Pradesh was set on fire,[133] and more attacks in Karnataka,.[134] The archbishop, Bernard Moras, met the BJP CM BS Yeddyurappa after he had taken a decision to invoke the provisions of Goonda Act against those nabbed for vandalising churches as part of its strategy to salvage its image and to instill confidence. The Bajrang Dal convenor was arrested after the incidents of church burning in Mangalore.[135][136] In light of these events NDTV asked to ban the Bajrang Dal.[137]

The violence apparently spread to Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh (which had a Christian CM) as claimed by Catholic News.[138] More sign of trouble erupted on 27 September as the attacks spread to the least communal states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where there was desecration of a statue of the baby Jesus and Indian Orthodox Churches were stoned, interestingly by Christians of rival sects respectively and the Police took two Christians into custody.[139] However, in Kerala where the population is around one-fifth Christians, around one-fourth Muslim and live with a population of around 50% Hindus, there has been calm until recently. After the Hand chopping incident, the situation worsened.[citation needed].

Anti-Hindu violence

Swami Lakshmanananda Sarasvati
The passage to the permanent Durga mandap at Chattalpalli was being dug up to prevent the Hindus from entering the area.

There have been a number of more recent attacks on Hindu temples and Hindus by Muslim militants. Prominent among them are the 1998 Chamba massacre, the 2002 fidayeen attacks on Raghunath temple, the 2002 Akshardham Temple attack allegedly perpetrated by Islamic terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba[140] and the 2006 Varanasi bombings (supposedly perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Toiba), resulting in many deaths and injuries. Recent attacks on Hindus by Muslim mobs include Marad massacre, Godhra train burning etc.

In September 2008, Swami Laxmanananda, a popular regional Hindu Guru was murdered along with four of his disciples by unknown assailants (though a Maoist organization later claimed responsibility for that[141][142]), allegedly due to the Guru's provocative opposition of Christians' conversion activities and Missionary propaganda[citation needed]. Later the police arrested three Christians in connection with the murder.[143] Congress MP Radhakant Nayak has also been named as a suspected person in the murder, with some Hindu leaders calling for his arrest.[144]

Lesser incidents of religious violence happen in many towns and villages in India. In October 2005, five people were killed in Mau in Uttar Pradesh during Hindu-Muslim rioting, which was triggered by the proposed celebration of a Hindu festival.[145]

On 3 and 4 January 2002, three Hindus and two Muslims were killed in Marad, near Calicut due to scuffles between two groups that began after a dispute over drinking water.[146][147]

On 2 May 2003, eight Hindus were killed by a Muslim mob, in what is believed to be a sequel to the earlier incident.[147][148] One of the attackers, Mohammed Ashker was killed during the chaos. The National Development Front (NDF), a right-wing militant Islamist organization, was suspected as the perpetrator of the Marad Massacre.[149]

In the 2010 Deganga riots after hundreds of Hindu business establishments and residences were looted, destroyed and burnt, dozens of Hindus were severely injured and several Hindu temples desecrated and vandalized by the Islamist mobs led by Trinamul Congress MP Haji Nurul Islam.[150]

In transcripts made available to PTI on October 5, 2008, a prominent Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda alias Sunil mentioned that there was pressure from both Christians and Dalits to eliminate VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati, noting that most of the cadre members and supporters in Orissa belonged to Christian community and not tribals unlike in other states where tribals form the biggest support base of Maoists. It was admitting that the Maoists had for the first time intervened in any religious dispute by killing Laxamananda Saraswati.[151][152]

International Human Rights Reports

  • The 2007 United States Department of State International Religious Freedom Report noted The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the National Government generally respected this right in practice. However, some state and local governments limited this freedom in practice. [153]
  • The 2008 Human Rights Watch report notes: India claims an abiding commitment to human rights, but its record is marred by continuing violations by security forces in counterinsurgency operations and by government failure to rigorously implement laws and policies to protect marginalized communities. A vibrant media and civil society continue to press for improvements, but without tangible signs of success in 2007. [6]
  • The 2007 Amnesty International report listed several issues concern in India and noted Justice and rehabilitation continued to evade most victims of the 2002 Gujarat communal violence.[154]
  • The 2007 United States Department of State Human Rights Report [155] noted that the government generally respected the rights of its citizens; however, numerous serious problems remained. The report which has received a lot of controversy internationally,[156][157][158][159] as it does not include human rights violations of United States and its allies, has generally been rejected by political parties in India as interference in internal affairs,[160] including in the Lower House of Parliament.[161]

In film and literature

Religious violence in India have been a topic of various films and novels.

See also


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  71. ^ a b c d e When Kashmiri pandits fled Islamic Terror
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  84. ^ 'Church backing Tripura rebels' BBC News - 18 April 2000
  85. ^ Parratt (2003). "Christianity, ethnicity and structural violence: The north-east India case". Kangla Online. Retrieved 2008-03-10. "... it is clear that the Naga insurgency movements in India ... have to a degree a Christian ideological base... It is significant the Rev Michael Scott, one of the members of the earlier abortive Peace Mission, was widely perceived as being the Nagas' spokesman. Phizo (the first Naga independence leader) was a convinced Baptist. In the earlier period a substantial number of pastors joined the underground. The insurgents did not fight on Sundays unless attacked (Horam 1988:76-77). The slogan “Nagaland for Christ” was a recognised rallying cry, and to some extent still is. Overtly Christian elements have appeared in official statements. The Constitution of the Federal Government of Nagaland, while it guaranteed free profession and practice of any religion, declared that Christianity would be the religion of the Naga state (Horam 1988:61). It was not averse to using religion as propaganda tool either, when it claimed that the “Hindu government” of India had adopted a policy of stopping Nagas eating meat. In the earlier days of the movement (Phanjoubam 1993:125) volunteer gospel teams preached under armed guard (one might almost say gun in one hand Bible in the other), and the conduct of the jungle camps was (and to some extent remains, like those in Myanmar) ordered by Christian spiritual activities. As with the non-Christian Meitei movements, the NSCN tended towards puritannical life style, banning alcohol and drugs, and discouraging sexual immorality. Provision of social amenities, like schools and clinics, goes hand in hand with religious teaching." 
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  104. ^ Human Rights Watch 2006, p. 265.
  105. ^ Why is Narendra Modi in Wembley?,The Guardian
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  107. ^ Communal violence and nuclear stand-off
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  109. ^ India-U.S. Relations
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  118. ^ Ram Puniyani (2003). Communal Politics: Facts Versus Myths. SAGE. pp. p167. ISBN 0761996672. 
  119. ^ Indian Christians are victims of a 'concerted campaign'
  120. ^ a b Violence against Christians continues
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  122. ^ "India: Stop Hindu-Christian Violence in Orissa". 
  123. ^ "Stop the hate crime". 
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  125. ^ "Church Attack: Indefinite curfew in Orissa". 
  126. ^ a b Hindu Extremists Attack Indian Churches, Torch Home of Prominent Christian
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  128. ^ INDIA
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  134. ^
  135. ^'taka+hurt%3a+Archbishop
  136. ^ Karnataka Bajrang Dal head gets bail, refuses it
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  140. ^ Bajrang Dal launches campaign,The Tribune
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  142. ^ 'Majority of Maoist supporters in Orissa are Christians' The Hindu - 5 October 2008
  143. ^ 3 arrested in Laxmanananda murder case Indian Express - 7 October 2008
  144. ^ Net closes in on Cong MP for Orissa swami’s murder Indian Express - 27 December 2008
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  146. ^ "Kerala Communal Clashes: 62 get life for killing 8". The Tribune. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  147. ^ a b Marad can yet be retrieved
  148. ^ IMC India - 8 Hindus hacked to death by muslim mob in kerala
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  154. ^ "". 2007. 
  155. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices". "The government generally respected the rights of its citizens; however, numerous serious problems remained" 
  156. ^ "ANNUAL U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT GARNERS CRITICISM/PRAISE, EXPOSES U.S. 'DOUBLE STANDARD'". "US Office of Research & Media Reaction. 1999-03-05. 
  157. ^ ANDRES OPPENHEIMER (2006-03-13). "U.S. Rights Report Should Include U.S. Abuses". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  158. ^ "US human rights report spares allies". Melbourne: The Age. 2006-03-10. 
  159. ^ "U.S. rights report shows double standards: Russia". Reuters. 2008-03-12. 
  160. ^ "CPI(M) terms US report on West Bengal 'interference' in India".'interference'. 
  161. ^ "India not bound by Bush administration: Lok Sabha". ExpressIndia. 2008-03-14. "Responding to the point made by Dasgupta, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee observed the report should be ‘ignored with contempt it deserves’. "We are not bound by the Bush administration," he said." 
  162. ^ Bumbai (1995) IMDB
  163. ^ Earth (1998) IMDB
  164. ^ Fiza (2000) IMDB
  165. ^ Hey Ram (2000) IMDB
  166. ^ Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) IMDB
  167. ^ Final Solution (2003) IMDB
  168. ^ Black Friday (2004) IMDB
  169. ^ Parzania (2005) IMDB
  170. ^ Parzania not screened in Gujarat
  171. ^ Cinema at its very best... and then some not quite so at all
  172. ^ a b "International Religious Freedom Report 2007:India".


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