Hindu extremists' reward to kill Christians, as Britain refuses to bar membersRhys Blakely in Bombay
Extremist Hindu groups offered money, food and alcohol to mobs to kill Christians and destroy their homes, according to Christian aid workers in the eastern state of Orissa.
The allegations follow the British Government’s refusal to prevent members of two radical groups linked to the worst antiChristian violence in India since Partition entering Britain.
The US-based head of a Christian organisation that runs several orphanages in Orissa – one of India’s poorest regions – claims that Christian leaders are being targeted by Hindu militants and carry a price on their heads. “The going price to kill a pastor is $250 (£170),” Faiz Rahman, the chairman of Good News India, said.
A spokesman for the All-India Christian Council said: “People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties. They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are given petrol and kerosene.”
Ram Madhav, a spokesman for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the largest hardline Hindu group, denied the claims. “The accusation is absolutely false,” he said.
Orissa has suffered a series of murders and arson attacks in recent months, with at least 67 Christians killed, according to the Roman Catholic Church. Several thousand homes have been razed and hundreds of places of worship destroyed, and crops are now wasting in the fields.
In recent weeks the violence has subsided but at least 11,000 Christian refugees remain in camps in Kandhamal, the district worst affected. “They are too scared to go home. They know that if they return to their villages they will be forced to convert to Hinduism,” Father Manoj, who is based at the Archbishop’s office in Bhubaneshwar, the state capital, said.
The violence was triggered in August by the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, a senior figure in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hardline Hindu group, who had campaigned against the alleged forced conversions of poor Hindus by foreign-backed Christian missionaries.
Maoist militants claimed responsibility for the killing, but the VHP blamed Christians and called for revenge. This week extremists said that if Mr Lakshmanananda’s killers were not caught by December 15 they would begin a day of violence on December 25.
A group of Catholic bishops from Orissa believe that the attacks have a sinister objective.
In a letter to the state’s chief minister they wrote: “This conflict is a calculated and preplanned masterplan to wipe out Christianity from Kandhamal in order to realise the hidden agenda . . . of establishing a Hindu nation.”
This month Lord Malloch-Brown, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, turned down a plea for members of the RSS and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the VHP, to be barred from entering Britain.
“Neither organisation is proscribed in the United Kingdom or in India, nor do the Indian Government classify either as a terrorist organisation,” Lord Malloch-Brown said, in reply to a question from Lord Patten of Barnes. There have been calls from members of India’s ruling government coalition for the RSS and Bajrang Dal to be banned but analysts say the Government is unlikely to act for fear of alienating Hindu voters in the run-up to general elections in the spring.
The RSS has been outlawed temporarily three times; the first in 1948, after a former member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5186703.ece