Christians in northeast India are under attack as a violent conflict between two ethnic groups continues to cause civil unrest.
The violent uprising in the state of Manipur has lasted for weeks, leaving at least 73 people dead and nearly 400 churches destroyed.
The violence was sparked over plans by the government to give privileged status to the Hindu majority Meitei community in the Imphal Valley region. The Kuki community, who reside on the hills of the Churachandpur district, opposed it.
According to news reports, 1,000 weapons and 10,000 rounds of ammunition were looted from Manipur Police Training College, two police stations, and a battalion camp in the Imphal region recently, but have since been retrieved. And an Indian government-controlled paramilitary group called Assam Rifles recovered 22 pounds of explosives and 2,000 detonators.
Meanwhile, police stations in Churachandpur were attacked and looted by the Kuki community.
Many fear that those weapons will fall into the hands of militant groups.
Christians – who make up about 40% of the region’s population of three million – have suffered the most.
“I think the attacks have really been driven…by the central government,” David Curry, president and CEO of Global Christian Relief told CBN News. “The BGJ party has made being a Christian something that is not considered part of India. It seems as though their message is ‘If you are not a Hindu, you are not an Indian’ and this has allowed this escalation of violence against Christians and Christian churches.”
An unnamed source told the Christian Post that 397 churches and six Christian institutions have either been burned, damaged, or destroyed – 64 Christians have also died.
Curry says nearly 9,000 Christians are displaced.
“They’re literally on the run,” he explained.
“Regardless of how they frame it, whether its ethnic violence or anarchist, it seems to always be that the Indian government is overlooking and even in some cases encouraging violence against Christians in India,” Curry added.
“We have video evidence that shows the police assisting the rioters in attacking the churches,” he continued. “You have to look at what they do, not what they say. The central government and the local government seem to be in collusion with rioters that attack Christian churches and individuals.”
At one time, nearly 10,000 soldiers from the Army and the Assam Rifles have been deployed in Manipur and 35,000 people had been evacuated to safe shelters.
The violence first erupted in the state earlier this month after thousands participated in a protest march organized by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur to oppose the demand of the majority Meitei community receiving benefits, including the right to farm on forest land, cheap bank loans, and health and educational facilities, as well as a specified quota of government jobs.
Security advisor to the Manipur government Kuldeep Singh assured in a press briefing that things were under control and that the state was returning to normalcy.
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