The federal government and judiciary must act immediately to check the worrying trend, says Christian rights group
Indian Catholics pray during an annual rally on Palm Sunday in New Delhi on April 4, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
An interdenominational rights group in India’s national capital has demanded the federal government and judiciary intervene immediately to check the rapid rise in incidents of violence, coercion and false arrests of Christians.
The New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF) has cited 207 cases of persecution in 2022 to back the demand. It documented 505 cases in 2021.
“This data flies in the face of statements by government functionaries and leaders of the ruling party at the center and in the states that there is no persecution and that there are only a few stray incidents by fringe elements,” said UCF national president Michael Williams in a press statement on June 13.
William said it was ironic that the culprits, many of whom even film the acts of vandalism and physical violence on unarmed women and men, dare to defy the law with such impunity while the pastors and faithful gathered for prayers are arrested on false charges of religious conversion.
“In all such cases, the police are either mute spectators or active participants. Despite our appeals to senior officials and administrators, the police have failed to follow protocol, rules and conduct investigations,” the press statement added.
Based on the data collected from its national helpline number 1800-208-4545, the UCF said as many as 57 cases of persecution against Christians were recorded in May alone. The most acute situation prevailed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states in the north, Chhattisgarh in the east and Karnataka in the south.
“The data collected so far wasn’t exhaustive as many incidents did not come on our radar and hence aren’t recorded”
There were 40 incidents recorded in January, 35 in February, 33 in March and 40 in April.
Other than physical assaults and brutality, including against women, there were cases of vandalism, forcible closure of churches, disruption of Sunday prayers and social ostracization, mostly in small towns and villages, the data revealed.
For instance, a 65-year-old Christian woman and her son were threatened with a social boycott by fellow villagers if they professed the Christian faith in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh on May 2.
When they refused to give in, the mother and son were physically attacked. The woman sustained multiple injuries, including a wound on the head, and had to be hospitalized. A complaint was made before the superintendent of police and the district collector.
In another incident, a mob barged into a prayer meeting, dragged out the pastor and beat him up alleging he was converting people in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh on May 31.
The police, rather than acting against the assailants, arrested the pastor. He remained behind bars until he got bail on June 3.
UCF convener A.C. Michael told UCA News that there was a steady rise in incidents of violence against Christians across India. “The data collected so far wasn’t exhaustive as many incidents did not come on our radar and hence aren’t recorded,” he said.