Rising `Hate Crimes’ Against Christians Across India: Claim Human Rights Groups

For representation only. Photo courtesy: UCANEWS

India Tomorrow

NEW DELHI—More than 15,000 people recently staged a peaceful protest in Delhi against the atrocities perpetrated on Christians across the country.

Wearing traditional white attire and donning black armbands, protestors comprised members of over 80 churches. Youth, church leaders, musicians, lawyers, human rights activists, educationists, and other professionals also joined in.

The protest also saw various ethnic Christian groups from the Chhota-Nagpur region of central India, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and North East states offer worship songs and encouragement in many different languages and musical styles.

As a matter of historical record, many regional languages have survived and been strengthened because of the education brought to these regions by missionaries.

Bhupendra Kora, an activist from Chhattisgarh, gave a first-hand account of the atrocities the Christian Adivasis from the Narayanpur area have faced.

In December 2022, more than a thousand of them were hounded out of their ancestral homes and villages in a seemingly organized attack. They were presented with three hostile choices – perform “ghar wapsi”, leave the village, or be killed. Those who refused to budge were assaulted, their homes and places of worship destroyed, their harvest burnt, and their livestock slain and consumed. 

Essentially, there was nothing left for them to come home to. Add to that the insensitivity of the authorities, the hostility from their kin and folk, and the slow provision of relief – these tribal Christians had no option left except to live in hiding in the forest.

On the morning of 27 December 2022, three tribal Christian women were “summoned” to a village meeting and asked to leave their faith. Upon their refusal, they were publicly stripped and beaten up. The local authorities and the National Commission for Women have filed a complaint about it.

On 2 January, a mob vandalized a Catholic Church, the statue of Jesus Christ, and a grotto of Mother Mary in Edka village in the district. The school on the same campus was functioning when the perpetrators attacked the church.

Even though the High Court, on 4th and 11th January 2023, directed the government to provide relief to these displaced people in government camps set up in the area, most tribals chose to remain in hiding, fearing being forced back to their village after some days. Many say they want to return to their ancestral land and their regular lives but seek police protection and action against the perpetrators.

Kora also highlighted how Christians’ basic human rights and sanctity of belief are trampled upon in the state – sometimes by cutting off fundamental needs such as food and water and not allowing grieving families to bury their departed on their land.

Several fact-finding reports have highlighted these human rights violations in the states.

From the state of Uttar Pradesh, Patsy David, an activist with working extensively with victims of religious violence, and Shivdesh, a Christian from Fatehpur (where a highly covered case of alleged forced conversion has been ongoing since last year) spoke about their experiences as Christians living in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In this state, its 2021-enacted anti-conversion law is often invoked against minorities and from where the maximum incidents of persecution are reported. The United Christian Forum (UCF) report recently claimed that 186 out of the total 598 incidents of 2022 were reported from here. The same report also claimed that out of the 74 cases registered against Christians under anti-conversion laws nationwide, 56 came from UP – meaning three out of four cases.

Shivdesh recounted his nightmare starting with the mob attack on the evening of Thursday (14 April 2022) and how the community there was wrongly accused of forced conversion. He also spoke about how his family faced insensitivity from the authorities even as he was arrested and had to spend 25 days in jail under inhuman conditions. Patsy David highlighted the fact that the original FIR, under which over 50 Christians from Fatehpur (including an 11-year-old girl) had been arrested and harassed by the police, has been declared unmaintainable by the Allahabad High Court on the grounds of not being filed by an aggrieved person, rather a member of a local vigilante group.

David also shed light on another bizarre incident where an FIR was lodged in 2022 against a Christian who had died over two years ago, which raises questions about the investigation processes (or the lack thereof) and competency of the local authorities. In the first 50 days of 2023, David claimed that over 40 such incidents of violence against Christians had been reported in Uttar Pradesh.

Since 2017, eight states have enacted or re-enacted anti-conversion laws, which are often misused by religious fanatics and Hindutva proponents to target minorities for their faith. There is also a petition re-filed in the Supreme Court for the third time, seeking measures to curb “forced conversions” nationally. This petition is plagued with baseless allegations and unverified social media “findings” and several minority groups have filed impleadment applications against it. In the last hearing, the Supreme Court directed the petitioner to withdraw an additional affidavit containing false claims. The Court is also contemplating tagging all challenges to anti-conversion laws in various High Courts with this petition.

A petition filed in the Supreme Court also highlights violence against Christians, asking the Court for directions to mitigate the violence, referencing Union of India v Tehseen Poonawala as a precedent. The Court has directed the Centre to verify and submit a report on the list of incidents in the top eight states, as mentioned in the petition.

Another matter being heard for almost two decades now is the challenge to the discriminatory Presidential Order of 1950, which only bestows benefits and protections on Dalits of Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist faiths while overlooking the Dalit members of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Even though several committees instituted through the years have comprehensively concluded that the discrimination and atrocities faced by all Dalit groups, regardless of their religion, are more or less similar, the Supreme Court is yet to deliver a verdict on the matter.

United Christian Forum (UCF), a human rights group, said in 2015, only 142 verified incidents were reported on its helpline. In stark contrast, 505 incidents were reported in 2021. And it rose to 598 incidents in 2022.

“In January, this number had already reached 57 – almost two incidents reported daily on average. Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka remain the states of concern because of the growing hate and violence against the community. Incidents recorded by other groups, such as the Evangelical Fellowship of India, and the US-based FIACONA, put the figure higher, with the NRI documenters listing over 1200 incidents,” UCF said.

“The protest is not so much to oppose, as much it is to bring to the authorities’ notice – to the government, the Supreme Courts, and local authorities – this sharp rise in the violence against Christians on a national scale”, said senior writer and activist Dr. John Dayal, official spokesman of the organization.

He said while the community continues to have faith in the nation’s leadership and legal system, it makes a heartfelt and earnest appeal to fellow citizens to stand in empathy and solidarity with them.


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