Radical Hindus spread the rumor that Christians were responsible for Saraswati’s murder, though non-Christian Maoists claimed to have killed him.
The Hindu radicals went on a rampage, destroying 300 churches and 6,000 homes, and displacing at least 50,000 people for months.
“Christianity has been seen since the colonial period as a foreign religion and so to a certain degree, any anti-Christian group has a bit of a tinge of anti-colonialism associated with it," he said.
“And more recently as well, Christianity has been associated in the minds of many in India with Westernization." Indian Christians, however, say they’re only concerned with their security. We are not demanding it as Christians, but as citizens of India,” said Savarimathu Sankar, a spokesman for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.
According to Breaking Christian News, the 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati sparked intense violence in the predominantly Hindu Kandhamal District in eastern India.
The murders in Orissa state may have been the worst anti-Christian violence since India achieved independence 61 years ago.
One nun was gang-raped and over 140 churches, orphanages and other Christian organisations were destroyed and burned.
Christians, who comprise only about 2.3 percent (28 million) of the population, say attacks on churches have increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept national elections last May.
Though hate groups have targeted Indian Christians in the past, some experts say the BJP’s victory has bolstered their activities.