Archive for May, 2012

Anti-Christian Violence and Hindu Nationalism in India

Lecture at the Zentrums für Religion, Wirtschaft und Politik, Universität Luzern, Switzerland, May 24, 2012


Religious conflict, commonly known in South Asia as “communalism,” has a long history in India. Religion and exclusivist religious identity have acted as sources of conflict in India during the post-colonial period. Although Hindu-Muslim conflict had been, what Varshney (2002) calls, the “master narrative” of Indian politics, it is observed that since the 1990s the Christian populations have increasingly become the targets of violence. What is interesting is that most of these atrocities have occurred in provinces that not only have a sizable tribal population but also are ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian Peoples’ Party -BJP) or its allies. The central question then is why has violence against Christians increased in the tribal-dominated, BJP-ruled provinces in particular? The paper argues that in order to explain this, it is important to understand the political economy of the tribal society as well as the politics of Hindu nationalism and Christian missionary activities during the post-colonial period. Drawing on fieldwork in the tribal dominated regions of Rajasthan in Western India, the paper concludes that economic “backwardness” and contested cultural identity of tribals on the one hand and the competing projects of “conversion” by Christian missionaries and Hindu nationalists on the other are responsible for this increasing anti-Christian violence in India.