Christians in Gujarat tense as Anti-Christian pamphlets make the rounds during Christmas week

"Nobody has lodged a complaint with police so far," said K Nityanandam, Gujarat's home secretary
( [email protected] ) Dec 29, 2003 11:06 AM EST

Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India., Dec. 29 - Christians in Gujarat fear that a hate campaign has been launched against them by communal forces during the Christmas week as thousands of anti-Christian pamphlets have been mailed to, or slipped under the doors of, Hindu and Christian homes in western India, raising fears of attacks during Christmas celebrations.

The pamphlets accuse Christians of forcibly converting poor Hindus, a charge denied by Christian leaders. It was not immediately clear who was distributing the pamphlets in Gujarat state, where Hindu-Muslim clashes last year left more than 1000 people dead, mostly Muslims.

"We have found these pamphlets being circulated openly all over the state. But the government is not taking (action against) this vicious propaganda," said Father Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and human rights activist.

K Nityanandam, the state's home secretary, said he knew of the pamphlets. "But nobody has lodged a complaint with police so far," he said in Gujarat's state capital of Gandhinagar.

Prompted by the pamphlets, a Christian group — the All India Christian Council — filed a petition yesterday in the Gujarat High Court seeking protection during Christmas celebrations. Judge CK Butch asked the state government to respond to the concerns.

One pamphlet accuses Christians of destroying 200 Hindu temples in western Goa state. Another pamphlet was titled: "A conspiracy to make India a Christian country."

Christians comprise only around 2% of India's 1.2 billion people. The pamphlets printed telephone numbers, but calls to those numbers were unanswered.

Similar pamphlets were distributed in 1998, days before attacks by Hindu nationalists on Christian prayer halls in southern Gujarat.

Hindu nationalists have targeted Christians and their organisations in Gujarat and other states since they came to power in 1998. One of the most gruesome attacks was in 1999, when a Hindu mob torched the vehicle of an Australian missionary, burning him and his two young sons alive in eastern Orissa state.

Muslims, another minority in predominantly Hindu India, have also been targeted by Hindu extremists, though typically Hindus, Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for centuries in India. Jiwajibhai, a Christian living in southern Gujarat, said an activist of the right-wing Bajrang Dal group gave him some pamphlets last week and said: "Look what your missionaries have been doing."

Sailesh Christie, a Christian resident of Gujurat's main commercial hub, Ahmadabad, said he had also received some pamphlets.

"When I read them, I got scared because this really is mischievous propaganda," he said.