Christians file case against Hindu nationalists in Tamil Nadu

Several Christian families have filed a case against Hindu nationalists at the High Court at the Madras Madurai Bench in Tamil Nadu, India, to prevent further mistreatment due to their Christian faith.

The case was filed on 15 July 2019 by Christian families belonging to the ‘Kattunaickar’ Scheduled Tribe, who have faced years of hardship on account of their beliefs. The tribe moved to Sathyamoorthy Nagar, Madurai District, Tamil Nadu, in 1956 and is predominantly Hindu. However in the 1980s some members of the tribe adopted Christianity, but have continued to pay their village and temple taxes as a mark of unity with the Hindus. There are now approximately 100 Christian families in the tribe.

Local sources say that the hostilities towards the Christians started as early as 2004, and have become increasingly pervasive since 2016 when the local Hindu Munani, a Hindu extremist group, began to systematically target and harass the Christians. Recently, the Hindu Munani have imposed excommunicative measures on the families which prevent them from purchasing groceries, attending public ceremonies where families are of the Hindu faith, and accessing public water and the public walk way. The Hindu Munani have also placed a fine of ₹50,000 on the families (about £590), and Christian children have been prohibited from mingling with Hindu children in the playground.

The case at the High Court has been filed against 11 Respondents, which includes members of the Hindu Munani, the District Collector, the Superintendent of Police, the Revenue Divisional Officer and the Inspector of Police. An order for injunction to prevent the Respondents from imposing penalties and excommunicating the Christians and request for police protection has been submitted. The Petitioner of the case, who cannot be named for security reasons said that the hostile environment has escalated to physical violence and accusation of forcible conversions. Attempts to address the concerns with the District Collector and other officials who are also named as Respondents have proven futile.

C.J. Rajan, a human rights advocate who is representing the Christian community, said: “The rule of law is being fully violated in the Sathiamoorthy Nagar issue. No efforts have been made on the part of the government towards bringing peace in the village. Minority Christian rights are fully violated. It is the failure of Madurai district authorities.”

John Dayal, an Indian civil rights activist and writer, said: “Excommunication and alienation of traditional rights to water, markets and pastures is increasingly being used by Hindu fundamentalists. The pattern in states as Madhya Pradesh and the extreme southern state of Tamil Nadu shows that there are internal agencies propagating this argument to teach people a lesson for adopting egalitarian faiths and leaving what they perceive as coercive caste practices or harsh religious bondage. This defies the law of the land. It is strange that local administrations do not take action against the guilty. It needs be remembered that high courts have found such practices unconstitutional.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “It is worrying to see that this community of Christians has had to endure this situation for so long. There has clearly been a miscarriage of justice, where the propagation of hate and denial of basic human necessities have been allowed to continue. It is in such an environment that hate is allowed to fester into acute violence that can lead to targeted communal attacks, as seen in the district of Kandhamal, Odhisa over a decade ago where Christians were attacked for their faith. We urge the authorities to act quickly and to take necessary measures to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice so that the families can resume a normal life without fear.”