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November 04, 2004



Religious discrimination in India is something that minority groups often have to deal with. Its almost a way of life just like corruption,pollution,population explosion at al. Ok firstly lemme tell you a little bit about myself - Indian guy - Catholic - now in the US.

I have 3 siblings and all of them have very Indian names while I have a name that would (probably) easily identify me as a Christian. Once while having a random conversation with my mom I quizzed her about this. She says that the reason she and my dad decided on Indian names for my siblings was cause when applying for jobs it would be considered a blot on your profile if they knew you were Christian because Christians are generally viewed as slackers (drunks and some other things which I will not get into here). But by the time I came around (I am the youngest) things had supposedly gotten better. But I have on several occassions faced this discrimination myself - from teachers,friends,colleagues...

As regards religious tolerance in India I wouldn't be so sure. Ok maybe they don't come after us with pitchforks and lighted torches. But there is quite a bit of friction. There have been crazy things like trying to categorize Churches as bars because wine is served there. Yet another instance was the debate about doing away with Christmas vaccation for school kids because it is a western influence and was hurting Indian culture. (And if I am not mistaken they also toyed around with Easter - again same reason its an oh-so-bad western influence) Another one: The Supreme Court ordered a ban on having loud speakers (or anything that makes a loud noise which also includes firecrackers) after 10 pm. The law-abiding Churches(at least the Churches that I went to and all Catholic Churches AFAIK) consequently started having "Midnight mass" services that began at 9 pm and got over by 10 pm in keeping with the law. There would be police vans waiting outside the grounds where these services were held to enforce the law (just in case the priest gave a rousing homily which caused the service to go beyond 10 - then the last part of the service would probably be held in silence or with the priest shouting himself hoarse 'cuz the cops would have seized the speakers by then). But every year when Ganesh Chathurthi (a Hindu festival) comes around this law is regularly flouted with blaring speakers playing Bollywood numbers into wee hours of the morning(for a week or so 'cuz this festival often goes on for around 7-10 days). Same thing happens for Diwali - only this time firecrackers take the place of speakers. Not so long ago some groups asked the Catholic church in India to sever ties with the Vatican and the Pope because they were considered a foreign influence and so Catholics could not be regarded as patriotic unless they gave in to this demand. I could go on and on about instances of such religious bias.

Yet another issue that has recently been thrown up is the conversion to Christianity especially of people in the rural areas. There was a great hue and cry over missionaries who would go to rural areas mostly to set up schools,hospitals,orphanages,nursing homes,ashrams for abused women and in general do good. Several politico-religious groups stirred up popular opinion against this practice claiming that these missionaries were mostly trying to convert illiterate people in the rural areas. Being a Christian myself I may not be the best person to make an impartial observation. But in any case I will say this whatever the reason behind the missionaries trying to reach out to these people(where often even the government doesn't do much to help) it certainly doesn't justify the treatment that has been meted out to them. A nun was murdered, there have been instances of rape of nuns, a priest was paraded in the nude, an Australian missionary and his two sons were burnt alive....there are several more.

There have been mass re-conversions held where people who (in many cases voluntarily) converted to Christianity were asked to re-convert (which I am quite sure was under threats to their lives and that of their loved ones). Anyways this conversion bit is fairly recent and hasn't quite subsided in the collective conscience. So the converts and anyone trying to convert are under a lot of fire. If Bobby Jindal is a convert he might wanna watch out.

Adrianne Truett

Thanks very much for the comments, Dominic. Sometimes I think things are getting better (all the 1970s movies, Amar Akbar Anthony etc., where the Christians are constantly-drunk gangster-smugglers, compared with modern ones like Josh or Minsara Kanavu where Christians are just like everyone else and the Church is a force for good), but you really only have to pay attention to the news or hang out in India for a little while to know that it's not all a bed of roses. One of the most distressing conversations I had this past summer was with a bunch of young college girls in Madurai who say they regularly get beaten up whenever they go do charity work and that they're protecting one Muslim convert from her family, which wants to kill her. There's improvement, but there's still a long way to go.


I keep reading your blog from time to time. You do present a critical picture of India, which can be a bit hard to take for any person who unequivocally loves their country. Although it’s high time for reality bites - too often foreigners cloak India with euphemisms like mysticism, spiritualism and exotica without actually calling attention to the depravity of a very poor nation.

Dominic's comments are a huge revelation. I can fully empathize with his viewpoint after having lived as a minority abroad in Singapore and the USA. Life as a minority generally sucks - the assumptions you hold as a Hindu are no way relevant to a Muslim, Christian or Sikh growing up in India. This gets particularly reflected in popular culture - given that our Bollywood stars are mostly Muslim, it does seem absurd that they are always called Jai, Prem or Vijay (names like Dawood, Abbas or Gonzalez are always reserved for the mafia don or the villain).

Although I should add that given the caste system (and its numerous sub-divisions), many languages, and foods that exist in India, there is no one really dominate majority in India. I, as a Telugu speaking Hyderabadi, can feel and be a complete minority if I am living in God's own country - Kerala (which might probably not hold true for a Texan living in Michigan).

Thank you for throwing light on the dysfunctional side of Indian life – hopefully some of your love for the country will comes across while doing so in future posts ;)

Adrianne Truett

What can I say? I write like a pessimist :)

Thanks for the comments.



Your views of India are typical of what minorities of any religion feel while living in a country where the majority practices another religion. I am an American Hindu, and I am agast at the virtiolic comments about Hindu Gods, by the Christian Right in this country.

I have lived in India, and see that Christians are well integrated in the workforce, hold good positions at work. Where they get into trouble is when they try to convert innocent people by using false pretexts, and reasons into Christianity. An example is they would give a Villager water and say "You have drunk the holy water of Christ, and now you have to become a Christian", or "You will become rich as a Christian, see what the Hindus have done to you". As though the past slave owning, black hating people in this country have allowed Blacks, and other minorities to ever enjoy a decent standard of living.

So Dominic, look at yourself in the mirror before saying things. If you still hate Hindus, dont call yourself Indian.


I have sympathy for all people to live according to their traditions. But I dislike the missionary spirit because it assumes that one is better than another. Christian missionaries have no respect for Hindu traditions by the very nature that they want to convert you to the TRUTH. Same goes for any Hindu missionaries out there. Or Muslim. Am I being illogical with this viewpoint?


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