The general secretary of an international Hindu organisation has called for a new Indian Constitution that allows for "anyone who converts Hindus to be beheaded."
Pravin Togadia, of right-wing Hindu movement Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), made the proposal in a fiery speech to the assembled delegates of a Akhil Bharatiya Dharmaprasar Karykarta Sammelan in Ahmadabad last Monday.
He called for the imposition of the death penalty on those who attempted to convert Hindus to another religion.
Togadia's "hate propaganda has so often resulted in considerable violence against India's Muslim, Christian, and Dalit minorities," said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
"Violence and other abuses against marginalised groups in India are part of a concerted campaign of these Hinduvta organizations-whose leadership is dominated by upper-caste Hindus-to promote and exploit communal tensions in order to retain political and economic power," he explained.
Although officially a secular state, over 80 per cent of the Indian population defines itself as Hindu, according to a 2001 census. Islam is the country's second religion, with 13 per cent, followed by Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, along with other minority religions.
Sectarian tensions between religious groups occasionally flare into violence, as in the 1984 massacre of nearly 20,000 Sikhs (a response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards), the anti-Muslim Gujarat riots in 2002 which killed up to 2,000 people, and the 2006 Varanasi bombings, a Hindu holy city, reportedly by Pakistani-based Muslim terrorists.