Amnesty urges India to protect minority Christians

Amnesty urges India to protect minority Christians


New Delhi: Amnesty International has urged India to act on its word and end what it said were ongoing attacks by hardline Hindu nationalists against the country’s minority Christian community.

In a statement late Wednesday, Amnesty urged New Delhi to “conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the attacks... publish the results and bring those responsible to justice."

It said violence had continued despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s admission this week that the attacks against Christians in eastern Orissa state were a “national shame" and that his government had taken a “firm stand" to halt it.

Singh’s comment Monday while on a visit to France followed condemnation of the attacks by the pope and the European Union. “The last two days have witnessed renewed attacks by supporters of Hindu nationalist organisations... against the Christian minorities and their places of worship in Kandhamal district in Orissa," Amnesty said.

The fresh attacks left “three people dead, more than 15 people injured, including some policemen, and hundreds homeless," it said. Officials in Orissa say 32 people have died since the violence began on August 24. The number of Christians living in relief camps had gone up from 12,000 to 20,000 during the last month.

According to Amnesty, “an atmosphere of insecurity" was prevailing in Kandhamal despite paramilitary reinforcements sent by New Delhi.

Many of those displaced were reluctant to go back fearing more attacks in the light of an ultimatum from Hindu groups to convert to Hinduism if they want to return home.

The attacks on churches, prayer halls and Catholic-run schools were sparked by the murder of revered Hindu holy man Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and four of his followers on 23August. The killings remain unsolved.

Christians account for 2.3% of India’s billion-plus population.