Various Christmas events were targeted by Hindu nationalists in India, amid a growing wave of intolerance and violence against the country’s religious minorities under the prime minister’s rule Narendra Modi.
In the state of Haryana, the day after Christmas, a statue of Jesus was torn down and the church of the Holy Redeemer in Ambala it was vandalized in the first hours.
In the same state, members of a group of Hindus they disrupted a celebration at a school in Pataudi on Christmas Eve. Breaking into the school shouting nationalist slogans, they claimed that the event, which included Christmas songs, dances and teachings from the Bible, was being used to “Religious conversion under the garb of celebrating Christmas” and they claimed that they were “Brainwashing children through theater and speeches to accept Christianity.”
In Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, members of far-right Hindu groups Santa Claus effigies were burned outside the schools led by missionaries and accused religious Christians of using Christmas celebrations to urge Hindus to convert.
“As December rolls around, Christian missionaries become active in the name of Christmas, Santa Claus and the New Years. They attract children by having Santa Claus distribute gifts and lure them towards Christianity, “said the regional secretary general of Ajju Chauhan de Bajrang Dal, one of the right-wing Hindu groups leading the protest, according to the British newspaper. The Guardian.
Another Christmas event that takes place every year in Matridham Ashram, also in Uttar Pradesh, was targeted by a group of Hindu vigilantes who were outside shouting slogans such as “stop conversions” and “Death to missionaries.”
In Assam, two Hindu protesters entered a Presbyterian church on Christmas night and disrupted the celebrations, demanding that all Hindus leave the building.
“Let only Christians celebrate Christmas”Said one of the men, in a video filmed during the interruption. “We are against Hindu boys and girls participating in the Christmas function … it hurts our feelings. They dress up in church and everyone sings Merry Christmas. How will our religion survive? “. The police subsequently arrested the two men involved.
In the last weeks, Christian missionaries have also set their Bibles on fire and Christian schools have been disrupted by right-wing groups who allege that Christians are forcing Hindus to convert by offering them money and gifts.
In mid-December, the authorities of the western state of Gujarat launched an investigation against the Missionaries of Charity, the charitable order founded by the Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom they accused of forcing the girls in their shelter to wear a cross and read the Bible.
Activists say religious minorities in India have faced higher levels of discrimination and violence since the Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
In 2020, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom included the India as a “country of special concern” for the first time since 2004.
The Modi government rejects having a radical “Hindutva” (Hindu hegemony) agenda and insists that people of all religions have the same rights.
Although Christians represent only about the 2 percent of the population Out of more than 1 billion in India, Christmas is a national holiday that is celebrated with much fanfare in the country.
But nevertheless, activists say there have been more than 300 anti-Christian incidents this year alone.
In the middle of December, a Hindu mob of 200 to 300 people stormed a Christian school in Madhya Pradesh while students were taking their exams and threw stones at the buildingsaid the school principal.
“We moved the children from the auditorium to another wing of the school. We kept them on the first floor and gave them more time to finish the exam. But the students couldn’t write, they cried and trembled ”, said school principal Anthony Tynumkal.