Worthy News Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News) -- Christians in India's volatile state of Orissa feared more violence Sunday, February 22, after a Christian man was killed and hard-line Hindus forced nearly two dozen Christian families to "convert" to Hinduism, local residents and rights investigators said.
The lifeless body of Hrudayananda Nayak, 40, was reportedly found last Thursday, February 19, in a forest near the predominantly Christian village of Rudangia in Kandhamal district, some 260 kilometres (161 miles) from Orissa's capital Bhubaneshwar.
Nayak was captured a day earlier by Hindy militants while accompanying his sister to a nearby city, Christians said.
Within 24 hours, his human remains were discovered by residents and police after local villages discovered blood and a slipper in a roadside bush, said Sajan George, national president of advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) in a statement.
Nayak’s death was at least the third deadly attack against Christians in Orissa's Kandhamal district since late October, and came amid reports of new threats by hard-line Hindus.
Nearly half of 40 Christian families in one village, Bareka, have reportedly been forced to convert to Hinduism under threat of death. Hindu hardliners allegedly took 18 Roman Catholic families to a Hindu temple, performed Hindu rituals, and forced them to sign statements they had converted of their own will.
In G. Udayagiri refugee camp, Christians said nearly all 400 Christian families from the area could not leave the camp, except for five families who were allowed to return after being "forced" to become Hindus.
Pressured by international community, including the European Union, Orissa's government has promised to fight extremism, however advocacy groups say Hindu extremists remain active in the area, despite stepped up security following large scale anti-Christian attacks last year.
The violence followed the August 23 killing in the state of an influential Hindu religious leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and four of his followers. Maoist rebels claimed responsibility, but Hindus blamed Christians for the killings.
Dozens of people were killed in the violence that followed and thousands were displaced. Rights groups have linked the tensions to growing opposition among hard-line Hindu groups towards the spread of Christianity in Orissa and other areas of India. Christians comprise just over two percent of India's over 1.1 billion, mainly Hindu, population.