A group of Hindus involved in a series of attacks on churches in southern India are in police custody, officials said Monday, as anti-Christian mob violence continues to spread throughout the country.
Police said they are questioning seven Hindus from the southern state of Karnataka, where more than 20 churches were attacked by Hindu mobs over the past week, according to Reuters.
“They are being questioned and arrests may take place,” said M.R. Pujar, an officer in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka state.
In total, more than 270 people have been arrested in connection to the violence in Karnataka, including a local leader of a militant Hindu group on Saturday.
India’s seemingly contagious anti-Christian violence began in the remote eastern state of Orissa in mid-August, when Hindu militants had accused Christians of murdering their leader – a man known for his anti-Christian conversion campaigns.
Tens of thousands of Christians in Orissa have since been uprooted from their homes as violent crusades persist in the impoverished state. Hindu mobs have burned down hundreds of Christian homes, businesses, churches, as well as orphanages resulting in what is thought to be the worst anti-Christian attacks in the 60 years of India’s independence.
Since the violent outbreak in Orissa, Hindu nationalists have spread their anti-Christian campaign to the southern state of Karnataka and the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Hindu zealots claim they fight for the cause of stopping forced conversions of Hindus by Christian missionaries.
But Christian missionaries counter that they too are against forced conversions, and do not use material goods to entice poor Indians to convert.
Overall, some 20 people, mostly Christians, have died in the rampages against Indian Christians over the past month.
In response to the escalating violence, Indian Christian leaders organized a massive rally on Saturday to protest state governments who they accuse of siding with Hindu militants.
Leaders of all major political parties also joined in the rally, as well as Sikhs, Buddhists, progressive Hindus and Muslims.
The All India Christian Council-organized rally was held in Vijayawada, the third largest city in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, and drew more than 15,000 people. Rally participants expressed their solidarity with the persecuted Indian Christians and condemned the attacks in Orissa and Karnataka.
Council national secretary Dr. Syam Paul said during the rally that the anti-Christian violence was posing a threat to the country’s religious harmony.
“Religious conversions are not anti-Constitutional, only forcible conversions are,” Paul said, according to AICC. “Unfortunately, the Hindutva forces have launched a false campaign, while the media too is biased in covering news pertaining to conversions.”
He also faulted the Orissa government, which he said has lost credibility to govern, for not taking any action against those that openly admitted to attacking Christians.
Paul said 350 villages were attacked in Orissa, and over 23,000 are currently taking refuge in government relief camps. Many of those in the shelters were not even given blankets.
“The Central government should take the initiative to arrange basic facilities at the relief camps,” he demanded.
Besides government buildings, the persecuted Christians are also hiding in jungles to avoid attacks by the Hindu mobs. The now homeless victims of religious intolerance are said to be in danger of being attacked by wild animals as they take refuge in the jungle.