BHUBANESHWAR, India, NOV. 26, 2003 (ZENIT.org–Fides).- The Catholic community in the east Indian state of Orissa is in shock following a new wave of violence by Hindu fundamentalists against the Church.
A group of men on motorbikes belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal fundamentalist movements have attacked churches and assaulted a nun, authorities say.
On Nov. 21, the Hindu militants torched a Catholic church in Deogarh, west Orissa. The attack came after various acts of vandalism. The previous day, gangs wearing saffron-colored clothes — saffron being the symbol of Hindutva ideology — demonstrated in front of the residence of the district governor and started a bonfire to burn bibles and other Christian books.
They then went to Rajamunda village where they broke into a church and raped a nun serving at the parish.
The local Church has strongly condemned the violence, calling for a police investigation. Local security forces say the motorbike gang is sowing terror in the area.
Days earlier the gang went to Amulpani village to question the conversion of four Hindus who had become Catholics. From this village they proceeded to Jhareikela, where they sacked the home of a Protestant pastor and destroyed Christian books. Police are investigating.
Subash Chouhan, representative of the fundamentalist movement Bajrang Dal, has publicly denied that his activists were involved in the attacks. But the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has protested against the violence and called for police measures to protect minorities from attacks by Hindu fundamentalists.
“We are concerned for the safety of Christians in Orissa state which seems to have learned from Gujarat how to terrorize religious minorities,” said Sajan George, GCIC chairman, who called for the intervention of the National Commission for Minorities and the National Commission for Human Rights.
Orissa state has a population of 36 million, mostly Hindu. It is ruled by the nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which strongly opposes the conversion of Hindus to Christianity or Buddhism.
Orissa and the states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have passed a law obliging those who want to change their religion to obtain written permission from the local magistrate. Religious minorities, including Christians, oppose the law.