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Christians Wary as India’s Massive Election Begins ^ | April 17, 2009 | Patrick Goodenough

Posted on 04/18/2009 8:07:24 AM PDT by kellynla

This week’s kickoff of India’s multi-stage election was marred by violence carried out by Maoist rebels, but for many of the country’s Christians, Hindu extremists are of greater concern.

The communist insurgents killed at least 16 people, including security and polling officials, in three northeastern states – Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Bihar – on Thursday, one of five election days spread over the next month.

Around 140 million people out of a total electorate of some 714 million were eligible to vote on the first day of what is described as the world’s biggest democratic electoral process.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress party is facing off against the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which led governing coalitions for eight years until unexpectedly losing to a Congress-led coalition in 2004.

Despite the arrest earlier this week of a firebrand Hindu nationalist figure accused of inciting hatred against Christians, organizations representing the embattled minority have expressed concern about the possibility of violence over the election month.

The National Council of Churches in India, a grouping representing Protestant and Catholic denominations, said Christians across the country were praying for a peaceful election.

The arrested politician, Ashok Sahu, is the BJP candidate for a parliamentary seat representing Kandhamal, a district in the eastern state of Orissa.

Orissa last year saw some of the worst violence against Christians in India’s history, as Hindu mobs torched homes and churches. Scores of Christians – contested figures range from 60 to more than twice that number – were killed and tens of thousands fled their homes.

Eight months later, thousands are still in makeshift emergency camps where, according to Barnabas Fund – which supports Orissa Christians and other Christian communities under threat around the world –

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TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: bjp; christians; communists; hindu; hindutva; india; maoist; maoists; naxalite; naxalites; persecution

1 posted on 04/18/2009 8:07:24 AM PDT by kellynla
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