Hundreds of tribals from at least 14 villages in India’s Chhattisgarh State staged a sit-in protest in front of the District Collectorate Office in Narayanpur, beginning on December 17, denouncing the persecution that they have been subject to. At least 1,000 Christian tribals have been the targets of violence, in what is allegedly an organized campaign by the Hindu right to target religious minorities.
Between December 9 and December 18, a series of attacks carried out in 18 villages in Narayanpur and 15 villages in Kondagaon triggered the the displacement of at least 1,000 Christian Adivasis [members of the tribal community] from their respective villages.
This violence has been described as the culmination of “an organized campaign to forcibly convert Christian Adivasis to Hindu religion,” Irfan Engineer, the director of the Center for Study of Society and Secularism, who led a fact-finding committee on the issue, noted on December 29.
“Those displaced were threatened to denounce their Christian faith and convert to Hindu religion failing which they would have to leave their village or face dire consequences, even death,” Engineer told reporters.
The fact-finding report mentions that a number of Christian Adivasis were “gravely assaulted and beaten up” by people wielding bamboo canes, tires, and rods. At least “two dozen people had to be hospitalized with injuries like fractures of the collarbone, wrists, etc,” the report said. In another instance, Manglu Koram from Madamnar village told the fact-finding committee that he was forcibly taken from his house along with “21 Christian families of his village to the village temple where the priest forcibly conducted some rituals and declared them to [now] be Hindus.”
Most of the tribals of Chhattisgarh, including the minority Christians that comprise less than 2% of the entire population, have lived in their respective villages for generations.
According to activists, leaders of right-wing Hindu groups have been inciting Hindus to turn on them. Those inciting the people have been arguing that conversion into Christianity bars those who have converted from Jal-Jangal-Zameen (water, forest, and land) rights, media reports said.
The fact-finding report adds that despite these targeted attacks, “no information regarding FIR can be found on the government website,” even when the District Collector claims that police have taken cognizance of what has happened.
Sukhman Potai, president of the Narayanan Christian Society, said to PTI news agency that anti-Christian attacks have intensified over the last two months.
The families who fled were were kept in different locations and community halls in Narayanpur, as per the president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, Arun Pannalal, who noted that “the district administration is providing them food and other amenities.”
Some families, however, said that they would not return to their villages unless the state administration gives them some assurances about their safety: “We have suffered a lot, our crops and livestock have been damaged. I want justice and my rights. I will not go home until I get that. I am going to stay here at the camp even if it takes years. If someone helps us we will fight a legal battle (against the accused),” one of those who was attacked told The Citizen.