India, conventional long name - Republic of India, is a state located in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; Bhutan, the People's Republic of China and Nepal to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four of the world's major religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism - originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early 18th century and colonised by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence which was marked by non-violent resistance and led by Mahatma Gandhi.
The Indian economy is the world's tenth largest economy by nominal GDP and fourth largest economy by purchasing power parity. Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies, and is considered a newly industrialized country; however, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption and inadequate public health. A nuclear weapons state and a regional power, it has the third-largest standing army in the world, and ranks tenth in military expenditure among nations.
India is a federal constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. It is one of the five BRICS nations. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multiethnic society. It is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
Today, in addition to the continuing strategic relations with Russia, India has wide ranging defence relations with Israel and France. In recent years, India has played an influential role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the World Trade Organization. The nation has provided 55,000 military and police personnel to serve in thirty-five UN peacekeeping operations across four continents. India is also an active participant in various multilateral forums, most notably the East Asia Summit and the G8+5. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with the developing nations of South America, Asia and Africa. For about a decade now, India has also pursued a "Look East" policy which has helped it strengthen its partnerships with the ASEAN nations, Japan and South Korea on a wide range of issues, but especially economic investment and regional security.
Recently, India has also increased its economic, strategic and military cooperation with the United States and the European Union. In 2008, a civilian nuclear agreement was signed between India and the United States. Although India possessed nuclear weapons at the time and was not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it received waivers from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), ending earlier restrictions on India's nuclear technology and commerce. As a consequence, India has become the world's sixth de facto nuclear weapons state. Following the NSG waiver, India was also able to sign civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreements with other nations, including Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
With 1.3 million active troops, the Indian military is the third largest in the world. India's armed forces consists of an Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, and auxiliary forces such as the Paramilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command, is the third largest in the world. The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. The official Indian defence budget for 2011 stands at US$36.03 billion (or 1.83% of GDP) [Queried as to political accuracy - up to 3.16% suggested. AAE]. According to a 2008 SIPRI report, India's annual military expenditure in terms of purchasing power stood at US$72.7 billion, India has also become the world's largest arms importer, receiving 9% of all international arms transfers during the period from 2006 - 2010. Defence contractors, such as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), oversee indigenous development of sophisticated arms and military equipment, including ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft and main battle tanks, in order to reduce India's dependence on foreign imports.
With 1,210,193,422 citizens reported in the 2011 provisional Census, India is the world's second most populous country. India's population grew at 1.76% per annum during the last decade, down from 2.13% per annum in the previous decade (1991-2001). The human sex ratio in India, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males, the lowest since independence. India's median age was 24.9 in the 2001 census. Medical advances of the last 50 years, as well increased agricultural productivity brought about by the "green revolution" have caused India's population to grow rapidly. The percentage of Indian population living in urban areas has grown as well, increasing by 31.2% from 1991 to 2001. Despite this, in 2001, over 70% of India's population continued to live in rural areas. According to the 2001 census, there are twenty seven million-plus cities in the country, with Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata being the largest.
India's overall literacy rate in 2011 is 74.04%, its female literacy rate standing at 65.46% and its male at 82.14%. The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate, whereas Bihar has the lowest. India continues to face several public health-related challenges. According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water or breathing polluted air. There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.
The Indian Constitution recognises 212 scheduled tribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population. The 2001 census reported the religion in India with the largest number of followers was Hinduism, with over 800 million (80.5%) of the population recording it as their religion. Other religious groups include Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahá'ís. India has the world's third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country.
India is home to two major language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by about 24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families. Neither the Constitution of India, nor any Indian law defines any national language. Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the union. English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a 'subsidiary official language;' it is also important in education, especially as a medium of higher education. In addition, every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution also recognises in particular 21 "scheduled languages".
Christianity in India
Christianity is India's third-largest religion, with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India's population. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings state that Christianity was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 AD to spread gospel amongst Kerala's Jewish settlements. Although, the exact origins of Christianity in India remain unclear, it is generally agreed upon that Christianity in India is almost as old as Christianity itself and spread in India even before it spread to many predominantly Christian nations of Europe.
Today Christians are found all across India and in all walks of life, with major populations in parts of South India, the Konkan Coast and the North-East. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to and are well represented in various spheres of national life. They include former and current chief ministers, governors and chief election commissioners. Indian Christians also have one of the highest literacy, work participation and sex ratio figures among the various religious communities in India.
Most Christians in India are Roman Catholics (Latin rite). The others include the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church and the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church which are prominent in Kerala. Major Protestant denominations include the Church of South India (CSI), the Church of North India (CNI), the Presbyterian Church of India, Baptists, Lutherans and other evangelical groups. The Christian Church runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals contributing significantly to the development of the nation.
Pentecostalism is also rapidly growing in India. The major Pentecostal churches in India are the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Mission, the Indian Pentecostal Church of God with 900,000 members, the New Apostolic Church with 1,448,209 members, the New Life Fellowship Association with 480,000 members, the Manna Full Gospel Churches with 275,000 members, and the Evangelical Church of India with 250,000 members.
The New Apostolic Church (NAC) is a chiliastic church, converted to Protestantism as a free church from the Catholic Apostolic Church. The church has existed since 1879 in Germany and since 1897 in the Netherlands. It came about from the schism in Hamburg in 1863, when it demerged from the Catholic Apostolic Church, which itself started in the 1830s as a renewal movement in, among others, the Anglican Church and Church of Scotland.
Premillennialism and the Second Coming of Christ are at the forefront of the New Apostolic doctrines. Most of its doctrines are akin to mainstream Christianity and, especially its liturgy, to Protestantism, whereas its hierarchy and organisation could be compared with the Roman Catholic Church.
The church considers itself to be the re-established continuation of the Early Church and that its leaders are the successors of the twelve apostles. This doctrine resembles Restorationism in some aspects.
Telugu Christians or Telugu Kraistava are an ethno-religious community who form the second largest religious minority in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. According to the Census of India, there are over a million Christians in Andhra Pradesh comprising 1.5 % of the state's population, although a decrease from the 1971 census figure which was 4.2%, as a result of low birth rates and emigration. Although the Franciscans of the Catholic Church brought Christianity to the Deccan Area in 1535, it is only after 1759 AD when the Northern Circars came under the rule of the East India Company that the region opened up to greater Christian influence. The first Protestant missionaries in Andhra Pradesh were Rev. Cran and Rev. Des Granges who were sent out by the London Missionary Society. They set up their station at Vishakapatnam in 1805 AD.
Most Telugu Christians are Protestant belonging to major Indian Protestant denominations such as the Church of South India, the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches and several others. The Church in Andhra Pradesh runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals contributing significantly to the development of the state. Telugu Christians are found in all walks of life and have contributed much to the development of the state. Regions with significant populations of Telugu Christians include the erstwhile Northern Circars, the coastal belt and the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Many Telugu Christians have emigrated to other countries in the Anglosphere with significant populations being present in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Telugu Christians also have one of the highest literacy, work participation and sex ratio figures among the various religious communities in the state.
Historically, Hindus and Christians have lived in relative peace since the arrival of Christianity in India from the early part of the first millennium. In areas where Christianity existed in pre-European times like Kerala, land to build churches was often donated by Hindu kings and Hindu landlords. The arrival of European colonialists brought about large scale missionary activity in South India and North-East India. Many indigenous cultures were converted to Christianity. Sometimes they were voluntary, and other times they were coerced. The Goan Inquisition is pointed out as a blot in the history of Goa. In more contemporary periods, Hindu-Christian amity still exists unlike the other parts in India.
Aggressive proselytizing by Christian missionaries under British rule was a cause of resentment among Hindus and Muslims in the 19th century, who felt that their cultures were being attacked. This was one of the several causes of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British Raj. The role of the Anglican padres and chaplains in that conflict is recounted in William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal. Also, many Christian ideals prompted reform movements within the Hindu society in the 19th century, the most notable being the Brahmo Samaj, which was influenced by British Christian Unitarianism. Hindus who have converted to Christianity in more recent times typically retain their social customs, including caste practices and combine Hindu customs with Christianity to achieve a unique brand of Indian Christianity.
There has been an increase in anti-Christian violence in recent years particularly in the states of Gujarat and Orissa; which is usually perpetrated by Hindu nationalists. The acts of violence include arson of churches, re-conversion of Christians to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries. An Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were torched alive while sleeping on 22 January 1999 in Orissa. According to some, the number of incidents of anti-Christian violence has multiplied since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began its rule in March 1998. Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are generally held responsible for violence against Christians in India. Sangh Parivar and local media were involved in promoting anti-Christian propaganda in Gujrat. In its annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians." The report on anti-Christian violence listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. As a response to allegedly aggressive missionary activity four Indian states Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu (later repealed) have passed laws restricting or prohibiting religious conversion.
In spite of the fact that there have been relatively fewer conflicts between Muslims and Christians in India in comparison to those between Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Sikhs, the relationship between Muslims and Christians have also been occasionally turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Christians were systematically persecuted in a few Muslim ruled kingdoms in India.
Perhaps the most infamous acts of anti-Christian persecution by Muslims was committed by Tippu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore against the Mangalorean Catholic community from Mangalore and the erstwhile South Canara district on the southwestern coast of India. Tippu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. The Captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.
The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: "All Musalmans should unite together, and considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, labor to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject."Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tippu gained control of Canara. He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates, and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route. However, there were no priests among the captives. Together with Fr Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.
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