Sunday, August 24, 2008

Indian Maoists kill Hindus over Christian conversions

BHUBANESWAR, India-Suspected Maoists killed a senior Hindu leader and four others in a remote eastern Indian village, an attack that police said may be linked to a controversy over religious conversions in the area.Armed men raided a Hindu school in Orissa's rural Kandhamal district on Saturday and killed five people, including an octogenarian leader linked to India's main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).The remote, forested region is a hotbed of religious tensions between hardline Hindus who accuse Christian priests of bribing poor tribespeople and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.Christian groups say lower-caste Hindus who convert do so willingly to escape the highly stratified and oppressive Hindu caste system.Tensions came to a head on Christmas Eve last year when fights broke out in which one person was killed and churches and temples were damaged.The region is a stronghold of Maoist rebels and police say they have evidence to link the guerrillas to Saturday's attack."We have found a letter from the spot which indicates that it may be a Maoists attack," Kishan Kumar, the area's top government official, told Reuters, adding the automatic rifles used in the attack were similar to the ones used by the Maoists.Police say by attacking Hindus the Maoists were trying to garner support among the region's poor tribes, most of which had converted to Christianity. "There are instances where the rebels have threatened Hindu temples here," said Satish Gajbhiye, a senior police official.The murdered Hindu leader was leading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus and tribal people from Christianity.Saturday's killings have sparked tension in the area with hundreds of Hindus blocking roads and stopping trains. Thousands of policemen were deployed to maintain peace. Reports said one church was burned down by Hindu crowds.India's constitution is secular, but most of its billion-plus citizens are Hindu. About 2.5 percent of Indians are Christians.There have been attacks on Christians in the past in Orissa and other parts of India. In 1999, a Hindu mob killed Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two children by burning them in their car in Orissa.

As in the days of Noah...

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