Christians in India are, with very few exceptions, untouchables or oppressed tribals. They take Christianity at least in part in order to escape their outcaste status, if only in name.
The Hindu right has been on a campaign since the late 1990s to intimidate and forcibly convert this small, vulnerable religious minority. The pattern of violence includes incidents of murder, rape, and arson. In one widely reported case in 1999 an Australian missionary and his two young sons were burned to death while sleeping in their camper.
That was in Orissa, and it is in that backward state, where nearly half the people live below the official poverty line, that the worst attacks ever against Christians in India were carried out last week. They took place in the district of Kandhamal, where Hindu-right activists have been organizing among the majority Kandha tribals, encouraging them to take up orthodox Hindu practices and exploiting their petty rivalry with the untouchable Panas, ninety-five percent of whom are Christians.
In Kandhamal's Bharakama village on the days leading up to Christmas celebrations, Hindu-right activists staged provocations against Christians and vandalized decorations. On Christmas Day a Hindu-right mob of thousands systematically destroyed Christian homes, churches, and institutions, killing several people and leaving thousands more homeless.
Charting the history of sangh parivar violence in Orissa by Angana Chatterji (Communalism Combat)
India: Stop Hindu-Christian Violence in Orissa (Human Rights Watch, December 27, 2007)
A dangerous mix by Soumyajit Pattnaik (Hindustan Times)
And for background on the Hindu right's anti-Christian campaign:
Anti-Christian Violence in India by Vinjay Lal
Anti-Christian Violence on the Rise in India (Human Rights Watch, September 29, 1999)