India: Christian Crisis in Koraput, Odisha


Date:  September 9, 2020

By Elizabeth Kendal


Dr Raghumni Naik is a history professor in the north-east Indian state of Odisha. In 2012 Dr Naik published a paper in which he describes the transformative and civilising impact of Christian missionaries on the tribal 'aboriginals' of Koraput district, Odisha (formerly known as Orissa), during the 19th Century. Previously illiterate, superstitious, downtrodden and 'untouchable', the tribals were offered 'a ray of hope'. The missionaries, he says, had to overcome a mountain of bureaucracy and opposition, not from the tribals but from 'the high caste people'. [Blessed with hereditary privilege, most high caste Hindus will resist any threat to the status quo.] Commending the missionaries for their endurance, Dr Naik writes: 'Thereafter, the history of Koraput witnessed a tremendous transformation in the social, economic, educational, health and religious spheres. There was in fact a historic leap from tradition to modernity, darkness to light, superstition to reason, illiteracy to literacy, ignorance to knowledge, enmity to fraternity, unhealthiness to salubrity, violence to non-violence, immolation to prayer, isolation to assemblage, and casteism to social mobility.' He concludes: 'The tribal and Dalit people will remain indebted forever for the selfless services rendered by the Christian missionaries.'

Source: 'Christian Missionaries and their Impact on Socio-Cultural Development - Undivided Koraput District a Study', By Dr Raghumni Naik, IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (JHSS), Volume 2, Issue 3 (Sep-Oct. 2012), pp 01-05. 

Dr Naik could not have foreseen the impact the Modi government's divide and conquer strategy would have on the tribal and Dalit peoples (formerly Untouchables) of Koraput.

In early 2019 in the lead up to the April-May 2019 federal elections, India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used data-analytics and micro-targeted messaging - mostly through Facebook and WhatsApp - to revive its flagging fortunes and secure an absolute majority. One data analyst described the strategy as 'creating a customised enemy for every group', and then positing the BJP as the solution. By this means, the BJP was able to lure even tribal non-Hindus - who traditionally have allied with Christians against Hindu caste discrimination - into voting BJP, according to whom their enemy is not caste, but Christianity. [See RLPB 506 'Christian Crisis in North India' (12 June 2019).] This strategy of fuelling communal divisions so as to secure political conversions has served to facilitate violent persecution. Whilst Hindu nationalism has been around for a century, the rise of the BJP (since the late 1980s) and its popularisation under the charismatic Narendra Modi (since 2014) has essentially normalised and legitimised communalism and persecution, transforming it into a seemingly unstoppable force.

Pastor Ayuba Khora has been leading a house church of around 55-60 Christians from 12 families in Badaguda village in Odisha State's southern Koraput district for the past two years. Previously, around 40 Christians would gather to pray every Friday, but now the intimidation and violence has made that impossible. The villagers are tribal animists who believe their own gods are angered by the prayers of Christians. To prevent conversions and force Christians to return to Shamanistic and animistic practises, hostile villagers violently persecute believers (including children) and destroy their homes. Earlier this year the Christians were told they could only meet outside the village. So they built a makeshift shelter 'outside the camp' (Hebrews 13:13), but in March hostile villagers burnt it down. The police are no help. Pastor Ayuba told Morning Star News, 'The 12 Christian families have faced opposition almost every day since the day they decided to follow the Christian faith.'

On 21 July - first at 1am and then again at 8am - angry miscreants attacked the home of Deba Bhoi (55) and violently assaulted the 55-60 Christians sheltering there. Eight believers required hospitalisation for serious injuries. Suffering head trauma, Ms Chachiri Muduli (75) will lose her sight if she does not receive further medical attention. At the head of this 100-strong mob are two village youths, Siba Mudili (Ms Muduli's only grandson) and Butia Jani. Siba Mudili is furious that his father, sisters and grandmother have become followers of Jesus Christ. Another area Christian leader, pastor Sudhakar Khosla, told Morning Star News that Siba and Butia are not the main force behind the attacks on the Christian families. Rather, they are only part of a larger contingent of tribal animist villagers who are brainwashed and incited by members of the Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a member of the Sangh Parivar, the Hindu nationalist body of which the ruling BJP is the political arm.

On 19 August the Christians were informed that the magistrate had extended for six months the Code of Criminal Procedure 107 banning all breaches of the peace. Police warned the Christians that if their worship creates disturbances then they (the Christians) will be arrested. [Full report: Morning Star News (6 Sep 2020).]


* intervene in Koraput to provide his beloved children with all their needs, including shelter, food and water, medical treatment and security; may peace and justice reign. 

' ... fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. […] For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you' (Isaiah 41:10,13 ESV).

* pour out his Holy Spirit in Koraput and in grace and mercy awaken those who have been brainwashed and incited against the Church which historically has given them so much (including literacy, health care, dignity and hope); may the miscreants experience conviction of sin and be drawn to repentance; may the hearts of the villagers be opened to the Prince of Peace and his Gospel of grace.

We pray especially for mob-leader Siba Mudili, whose father, sisters and grandmother - as followers of Jesus - are no doubt praying for him right now. May the God of all grace hear their prayers and 'reveal his Son' to Siba, so that God might be glorified in Koraput. (Galatians 1:11-24)

'...children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake' (from Matthew 10:16-25 ESV).

'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' (from Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)

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