Government asked states to increase security for Christmas celebrations after recent isolated attacks on Christians
Christians and others in India celebrated Christmas despite fears of a backlash in some parts of the predominantly Hindu country.
The Indian government asked states to increase security for Christmas celebrations this year after recent isolated attacks on Christians in northern India. No new incidents had been reported as of late Monday.
Vigilante groups have increasingly targeted Muslims since a Hindu nationalist party came to power in India in 2014, and some Christian leaders fear the attacks may now be spreading to their community.
“The poison of polarisation has now made Christians also a target,” said Madhu Chandra, the administrator of the All India Christian Council, a national alliance that works for religious freedom and the rights of marginalised people.
This month, members of a militant Hindu group allegedly beat up a group of Catholic seminarians and priests in Madhya Pradesh state.
Police arrested one member of the group but also detained a priest, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. The priest was charged with forced religious conversion, an accusation frequently levelled against Christians in India.
In Uttar Pradesh state, an extremist Hindu organisation warned schools in the city of Aligarh against holding Christmas festivities. State police were put on alert to ensure that festivities went on without incident, Indian media reported.
Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party does not condone the violence against Muslims, Christians and others, but activists say it needs to do more to stop it.
“It is not enough any more for political leaders and government leaders to make a statement against it, because the fringe is now becoming mainstream,” Chandra said. “They are beginning to dominate the narrative.”
Christians are a small minority in India, where Hindus make up 80% of the population of 1.3 billion people, and Muslims 14%.