The Narikuravar: A community in need of protection

In January 2023, CSW visited the Narikuravar community in Mappedu, on the outskirts of Chennai, and met with members of a community who for decades have suffered discrimination on the grounds of gender, and more recently on the grounds of religion as well. The following blog offers some reflections on the visit. Please note that the names have been changed for security reasons.

Radhika, a mother of three young girls, sat inside a little room with a thatched roof. With folded hands and a scarf over her head, she knelt down and prayed earnestly before turning to speak with me.  As a woman from a disregarded community who is also subject to restrictive gender-specific traditions, she would be excused for lamenting her circumstances but says that her new-found faith gives her the hope to live each day.

Radhika belongs to the Narikuravar community, a semi-nomadic tribe who were originally hunters and gatherers. She lives with around 30 other Narikuravar families in a tiny colony in Mappedu on the outskirts of Chennai. The Narikuravars have faced and continue to face discrimination in all spheres of life, including education, employment and even in securing accommodation.

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Chhattisgarh’s tribal Christian communities continue to live in fear

For tribal Christian communities in India’s Chhattisgarh State, the new year hasn’t really come with hopes of a better or safer future.

On 2 January a Hindu nationalist mob barged into the Vishwa Dipti Christian School campus in Narayanpur district and vandalised a church located within the premises of the school. Videos of the mob repeatedly hitting statues of Jesus and Mary, and scattering furniture surfaced on the internet. Both members of the mob and the churchgoers belonged to local tribes in Narayanpur, the two most prominent of which are the Gond and Muria tribes.

But what grabbed national headlines and went viral on social media was the image of a bleeding senior police official who was attacked by the mob when he tried to intervene. Narayanpur’s Superintendent of Police Sadanand Kumar was soon rushed to the hospital after suffering a serious head injury. Christians in Chhattisgarh have suffered attacks like these for several months with hardly any interest from the media, but it was only when a person of power was injured that anyone paid any attention.

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‘Freedom of expression and the courage to express oneself go hand in hand’ – an interview with John Dayal

Indian human rights activist, senior journalist and former president of the All India Catholic Union John Dayal is this year’s winner of the prestigious annual Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism, awarded to an individual or institution for their outstanding contribution to the press by the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). Dayal has spent over four decades as a champion of minority rights and the right to freedom of religion or belief in India and is a household name within the Indian Christian community.

The award will be conferred by the ICPA on 10 December, Human Rights Day, which follows International Human Rights Defenders Day, during the 27th National Convention of Christian Journalists in Chennai. The ICPA described Dayal as “a prophet of our times who is among India’s foremost voices against human rights violations, particularly on the persecution of religious minorities.”

Last month, CSW spoke to Dayal about his early years as a journalist, the state of freedom of religion and belief in India today, role of the press and more.

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Intolerance towards Christians in many tribal communities in India does not end even in death

Janki Sori’s family were not given much time to grieve. Having laid her to rest in their own land on 1 November, only two days passed before her body was exhumed against her family’s wishes by members of a tribal group known as the Sarv Adivasi Samaj – all because of her conversion to Christianity.

Ms Sori, who was 35 years old when she died, lived in the village of Antagarh in India’s Chhattisgarh state, where the majority of the community are animists who worship nature and spirits, while also drawing some influence from Hinduism.

Those who exhumed her body claimed that their village belongs only to those who follow their religion, and, after burying Ms Sori in a different village on 4 November, the group claimed that they would continue to target converts to Christianity in the same manner until they ‘re-convert’ to the religion or their ancestry and culture.

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“Jai Shri Ram” on the streets of Leicester as India’s Hindu nationalism stretches beyond its borders

“Jai Shri Ram”, translating from Hindi as “hail Lord Ram” or “victory to Lord Ram”, is meant to be a harmless informal greeting, a proclamation of one’s faith and an expression of praise for a well-known Hindu deity.

Sadly, the expression has taken on far more sinister connotations in recent years. For far-right Hindu nationalists in India, who have been significantly emboldened over the past eight years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the slogan has been appropriated as a rallying cry for violent extremists.

CSW receives regular reports of communal violence in which the perpetrators have either chanted those three words while carrying out their attacks, or in some cases pressured their victims to declare them, forcing them to contradict their own religion or belief.

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