India: New wave of violence feared - Christians really need protection

Göttingen, 05. November 2008 - Following the murder today, Wednesday, of a leader of the radical Hindu movement Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the east-Indian federal state of Orissa the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) fears a new wave of violence against Christians. So for this reason the human rights organisation has appealed urgently to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to ensure the safety of this minority.

The 40-year old businessman and RSS activist, Dhanu Pradhan was shot by three probably Maoist rebels this morning in the village of Kumbharagaon in the district of Kandhamal (federal state of Orissa). Panic broke out among Christians. For many members of this religious community have already been the victims of pogrom-like attacks in recent weeks following the murder on 23rd August 2008 of the radical Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda.

For the first murder fanatical Hindus had held Christians responsible, although Maoists had in writing acknowledged their responsibility. 59 Christians became victims of the attacks by nationalist Hindu groups and more than 50,000 had to flee. 150 church buildings were burned down and 4,400 houses belonging to Christians in about 300 villages were destroyed. Christians have often been arrested by local security forces as suspects. For lack of proof however no charges have been laid against them.

"India 's reputation is in danger if the authorities do not manage to prevent a new outbreak of violence against Christians", said the GfbV Asia consultant, Ulrich Delius. Also represented in the coalition government of the federal state of Orissa is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has constantly called out to anti-Christian violence. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and the bishops of Orissa have several times in recent weeks accused the provincial government of Orissa and the Indian federal government of giving Christians inadequate protection or of reacting much too late.