There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, coerced religious conversions, riots, and actions restricting the right of individuals to change religious beliefs.
On August 30, unknown assailants shot and killed writer and former Vice Chancellor of the Kannada University M. M. Kalburgi. Both Hindustan Times and First Post news sources speculated he was killed for his anti-Hindu views and described Kalburgi as a “rationalist” who had spoken against what he called the Hindu practice of “idol worship.” The police arrested three members of Hindu nationalist organizations in connection with the killing.
In January more than 5,000 people attacked the majority Muslim village of Azizpur, Bihar after a young Hindu man was abducted and killed. According to press reports, the attackers set approximately 25 houses on fire, killing four Muslims. The police conducted initial investigations and made 13 arrests from the attackers’ and victims’ communities before referring the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
On February 15, assailants on a motorcycle shot Govind Pansare, another “rationalist” and his wife in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Pansare was a politician and member of the Communist Party of India. He died from his injuries five days later. On September 16, the Maharashtra police arrested a member of Hindu nationalist group Sanatan Sanstha in connection with Pansare’s killing. Sanatan Sanstha had criticized Pansare and other “rationalists,” although at year’s end it was not clear whether the group had targeted Pansare for his beliefs.
In July in Karanja, Maharashtra, communal violence and an arson attack resulted in the death of a Muslim man. The violence began after local opposition to a marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman; it was not clear if the dead man was targeted for his religion. Police arrested two suspects and enforced a curfew to contain the violence.
On September 28, in Bisara village near Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, two Hindu boys used the local temple’s public announcement system to say that a Muslim family had slaughtered a cow and eaten it. A Hindu group carrying sticks, swords, and pistols attacked Mohammad Akhlaq and his son, killing Akhlaq and seriously injuring the son. Police later confirmed that meat in Akhlaq’s refrigerator was mutton, not beef. By October 3, the police had arrested nine people in connection with the incident, including the son of a local BJP leader. Local Hindus protested the arrests, vandalizing shops and setting cars on fire. A newspaper affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organization, wrote, “Vedas [Hindu religious texts] allow the killing of the sinners.”
On October 16, local media reported a village crowd chased down a truck and beat and killed its truck driver after the Bajrang Dal – a Hindu nationalist organization – accused him of smuggling cows from Sarahan village near Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. The crowd also beat the truck’s four other occupants. Police investigated the case and reportedly arrested the four occupants of the truck under the Cow Slaughter and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Acts after they found the truck had been used to transport cattle. Police later arrested five people suspected of involvement in the killing of the driver. The investigation continued at year’s end.
On October 9, a crowd attacked Zahid Ahmad, a Muslim, with a gasoline bomb and set his truck on fire in the Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir. Ahmad suffered burns on more than 60 percent of his body and died on October 18 at a Delhi hospital. The attack followed rumors that three cows had been killed in the area. Officials said tests revealed the cows had died due to food poisoning and the rumors of slaughter were created to foster communal tension in the Hindu majority area. Ahmad’s death led to several protests by Muslims in Kashmir.
On January 14, rioting crowds killed three youths, two Hindus and one Muslim, after communal clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Ambeta and Hansot villages in Bharuch district, Gujarat over a kite-flying incident. The clashes occurred during celebrations of Makar Sankranti, a harvest festival. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a civil liberties NGO, released a fact-finding report in response to the incident that pointed to heightened hostilities between the Muslim and Hindu communities beginning in December 2014, when people circulated provocative anti-Muslim messages over social media sites.
On May 9, Ashok Bhuria, a Hindu priest at a temple in a Muslim majority area in Nadiad town, Gujarat, shot and killed former councilor Sajid Vora, a Muslim. Buria said he acted in self defense after Vora led a group that was throwing stones at the temple. Vora and Bhuria had previously had a dispute over vehicle parking rights. The media reported the incident heightened Muslim-Hindu communal tensions. There were no reports of arrests following the incident.
According to the 2014-15 annual report of the MHA, there was a reduction in communal violence targeting religious minorities, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes over the previous year. Between April 2014 and March 2015, the MHA recorded 644 incidents in which 95 people died and 1,921 persons were injured. During the same period a year earlier, there were 823 communal incidents in which 133 persons died and 2,269 were injured. In the first six months of 2015, however, the MHA reported 330 incidents and 51 deaths, an increase over the 252 incidents and 33 deaths recorded over the same period during the previous year.
Christian communities reported an increase of harassment and violence, including physical violence, arson, desecration of churches and Bibles, and disruption of religious services. In its annual report, the Evangelical Fellowship of India documented 177 cases of physical violence, state harassment, and discrimination against Christians. Incidents included assaults on missionaries and attempts to convert them to Hinduism and attacks on Christian churches, Christians’ private property, and missionary schools and institutions. The report added that local police seldom provided protection, refused to accept complaints, and rarely investigated incidents.
On July 18, the Evangelical Fellowship of India reported Hindus forcibly entered a private residence in Delhi where a prayer meeting was being led by pastors belonging to the Pentecostal Church and broke windows, vandalized the residence, and attacked parishioners. The same group attacked two pastors outside the Nihal Vihar Police Station where they went to lodge a complaint about the attack. Police detained the pastors for attempting to convert Hindus to Christianity but released them after the pastors signed a letter agreeing they would not return to the area. More injuries were reported the following day when the pastors and fellow Christians were again attacked while peacefully demonstrating against the inaction of the police.
On August 8, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported a crowd of nearly 500 Hindu villagers targeted the small Christian community at Dhanora, Chhattisgarh after its members refused to renounce Christianity. The villagers summoned the Christians to a community meeting, accused them of spreading Christianity, and told them to renounce their religion or face attack. They also reportedly threatened the Christians with expulsion from the village and told them they would not be allowed to harvest crops from their fields. By year’s end, police had not filed a first information report on the incident.
On June 14, a group of approximately 30 RSS activists attacked two separate Pentecostal churches in Attingal, Kerala, as reported by the Global Council of Indian Christians. In the first incident, the RSS activists accused the officiating pastor of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity. The attack caused injuries to the pastor and five others. In the second attack, the activists injured 10 congregants, including a physically disabled person. Kerala police arrested five members from the group of 30 activists. The case remained under investigation at year’s end.
On May 25, a crowd attacked members of the Muslim community and set 20 of their houses on fire in Atali village in the Ballabhgarh district of Haryana. Approximately 400 Muslims took shelter in the Ballabhgarh police station compound. The media reported the cause of the confrontation was a 30-year dispute over a local mosque, which Hindus said stood on village land, while Muslims said it was on Muslim endowment property. In March the local court had ruled in favor of the Muslims’ appeal to renovate the mosque, but following the violence another judge put a stay on further construction of the mosque pending a final judgment. Ten people were arrested and a trial was pending at year’s end. Most of the Muslim villagers were able to return to their homes.
On October 20 in Delhi, activists from Hindu Sena, an organization that states it works for the welfare and protection of Hindus, attacked Sheikh Abdul Rashid, popularly called Engineer Rashid, an independent legislator from Jammu and Kashmir. They blackened his face with ink and motor oil. Rashid was at the Press Club of India to address a press conference on the October 9 attack on the truck drivers in Udhampur. Two weeks earlier, legislators in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly had criticized him for hosting a party where he served beef in protest of the Dadri killings.
On August 25, a crowd attacked a Muslim man for speaking with his female Hindu co-worker in Mangalore. The group pulled the man out of a vehicle, stripped him to his underwear, tied him to a pole, and beat him, while documenting the incident on social media. Police arrested 15 persons for the attack but no charges had been filed by year’s end.
Human rights groups in Karnataka stated the VHP and Bajrang Dal harassed Muslim buffalo meat traders in Mangalore. On July 14, Bajrang Dal activists on motorcycles intercepted a truck transporting buffaloes, reportedly for slaughter, to the Golitottu village in Dakshin Kannad district. Approximately 30 activists attacked the Muslim truck driver and two traders traveling onboard. Police filed charges of animal cruelty against the driver and traders (although transporting buffaloes is not illegal) and charges of assault against the activists.
On October 10, rumors of a cow being slaughtered triggered violence in Nagaria village of Mainpuri district in Uttar Pradesh. Protesters targeted police vehicles and set shops on fire, leaving seven policemen injured. Police arrested 21 people. A postmortem report on the cow established it had died of natural causes.
On March 20, the Evangelical Fellowship of India reported members of the Hindu Dharma Sena, a Hindu nationalist group, vandalized St. Thomas School and the neighboring St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. They assaulted priests, broke pots, and shattered church windows. Police arrested six suspects on March 23, and a court released them on bail. The local Christian community lodged objections with authorities over the release of the suspects. There was no additional information on the case at year’s end.
The VHP continued to promote its “Ghar Wapsi” (“Returning Home”) program for converting individuals to Hinduism. At its annual meeting in June, the VHP stated it had prevented 48,651 Hindus from converting to other religions and helped 33,975 individuals to convert or “reconvert” to Hinduism between April 2014 and March 2015. In March Ashok Agrawal, the RSS secretary for central India, said Ghar Wapsi was a crucial campaign that RSS would continue to ensure “India’s safety.”
NGOs such as Dhanak, a group that supports interfaith couples, continued to report instances of harassment of interfaith couples wishing to marry during the mandatory 30-day notice period; Hindu groups posted personal information about interreligious couples on social media websites.
Local media reported police did not allow Christians to worship in a church in the northern state of Haryana from March to July due to threats from local Hindu groups. The High Court of Chandigarh ordered on July 31 that the members of the congregation should be allowed to worship at the church. Local police, following the court’s directives, allowed the Christians to congregate at the church.
According to members of the Church of North India, an evangelical missionary group, on August 2, Hindu activists disrupted a Catholic prayer service in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, threatened the priest, and told him and attendees at the service to leave the area. Police did not file a case report or make any arrests.
According to the Human Rights Forum (HRF), a local NGO, a group of Hindus prevented a Catholic community from constructing a church in Malkizguda, Ranga Reddy district of Telangana in January. The HRF stated the Hindu group destroyed construction materials and threatened Christians. The NGO said the Catholic community complained to local police, which took no action in the case. Police charged two Christian youths with inciting religious hatred through religious propaganda in the same village soon after the previous incident.
In May Surat-based Hari Krishna Exports Private Limited, a diamond export firm in Gujarat, rejected Zeeshan Khan’s job application with an email stating the firm only hired non-Muslims. The firm denied it discriminated on religious grounds, saying an “individual human error” led to the email reply to Khan’s application. Khan later received more than a dozen other job offers after his experience with Hari Krishna Exports became public.
On October 13, the VHP put banners at more than 100 venues hosting the nine-day Hindu Navratri festival across Gujarat, declaring “This festival is for Hindus only.” In Madhya Pradesh, VHP and Bajrang Dal, VHP’s youth wing, guarded garba dance performances to deter Muslims from entering festival venues.
On May 6, Pune police arrested 20-year-old Amitesh Singh, an engineering student, after he tweeted that he would kill “around 3,000 Muslims.” Although Singh apologized and removed the post, police charged him with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, committing a deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings, and cyberterrorism. The case did not go to trial.
In February Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of VHP created a campaign of “Bahu Lao, Beti Bachao” (“Bring a Daughter-in-law, Save a Daughter”) in which they worked to convert Muslim brides to Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh and in one incident in West Bengal. The Indian Express reported this was in response to 2014 charges by some Hindu groups that Muslims engaged in a “love jihad,” a coordinated strategy by the Islamic community for Muslim men to marry women from other faiths in order to convert them to Islam. Bajrang Dal reported it suspended its campaign in July at the request of VHP and the ruling BJP, in order to avoid controversy over the issue in parliament.
On October 22, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, in a Dusshera rally speech, said India should be declared a “Hindu country.”
On April 21, after a church was attacked in Agra, the media reported that Munna Kumar Shukla, general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM), a political interest group affiliated with the RSS, stated, “the Narendra Modi-led NDA [National Democratic Alliance] government should award and provide legal and administrative protection to Hindus who attack churches across the country. Churches are no longer places of worship, but factories for conversion of Hindus into Christianity.” Shukla said the ABHM would give awards and protection for Hindu youths who attack churches and marry Muslim girls. The Hindu Mahasabha newspaper said attacking a church is not “illegal” and “violates no law.”
In January vandals broke into St. Alphonsa’s Catholic Church in Delhi. The priest reported the vandals only took religious artifacts and left cash in collection boxes.
AsiaNews reported that in May suspected Hindu activists attacked the Anglican Church of St. Paul and two Protestant churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s largest city. They attempted to set fire to two of the churches, although police intervened, and threw stones at the third church, breaking glass panels and windows. The Church of St. Paul reported damage to a crucifix, holy vessels, and a microphone. AsiaNews also reported that on May 12 Hindu activists attacked the residence of Augustinian nuns and the orphanage they ran in Pipaldhar, Madhya Pradesh, throwing stones, destroying crosses, and vandalizing objects.
On March 6, Haryana police arrested 14 people on charges of vandalizing a church under construction in the Hisar district of Haryana. The priest stated the accused had broken a cross and raised a flag depicting Ram, a Hindu god. Investigations were ongoing and the trial had yet to begin at year’s end.
Forty-one well-known authors, filmmakers, and other civil society members returned national and state-sponsored awards given by the government-sponsored Sahitya Academy (Academy of Literature) to protest what they said was the growing religious intolerance in the country and the killing of “rationalists” and secularists. The ruling BJP described the actions of the individuals returning the awards as politically motivated.