Hyderabad: Incidents that have unfolded in the past few days, point towards the growing persecution of the Christian community in India. The Hindu right has accused the Christian populace of leaving the Hindu fold and accepting Christianity just for the sake of “rice bags”. As such, the plight of Christians in the country is in peril and continues to worsen.
On Monday, Bajrang Dal workers barged into a Christian prayer hall in Hassan district, Karnataka to disrupt prayer and allege religious conversion. A similar situation unfolded in the coastal town of Karkala in Karnataka’s Udupi district on Friday where according to the police, members of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike disrupted prayers as well.
A newly inaugurated Church in New Delhi’s Dwaraka region was vandalized by right-wing mobs allegedly belonging to Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) while it was holding its first Sunday prayer at the time of the attack.
As many would like to believe, these are not just a few incidents where a hate-filled mob tried to corner a minority community. On the contrary, there seems to be an institutionalized sanction towards motivating these attacks as Karnataka’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, after ordering a survey of churches and priests in the state by the intelligence wing, also ordered a probe on ordinary Christians of at least one district.
The Tehsildar of Hosadurga taluk of Chitradurga district on October 4 ordered the revenue officials to do a “door-to-door” inspection to find “Hindus who have converted to Christianity” and prepare a list.
The Dwaraka incident seems to point towards the fact that religious conversion is just an excuse for the mob which only aims at targetting minority communities despite the Fundamental right to practice, preach and propagate one’s own religion enshrined in the Indian constitution.
At a press conference in New Delhi this week, the national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, A C Michael said that “The brutal attacks have taken place across 21 states. Most of the incidents are taking place in northern states and 288 instances were of mob violence.” He quoted from the report of US-based persecution watchdog – International Christian Concern which claimed that over 300 instances of Christian persecution have been documented in India.
Earlier in November, a mob of 200 right-wing Hindu Nationalists left a church damaged and at least three Christian women seriously injured in an attack in Uttarakhand.
According to Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List, India ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the US State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.
Open Doors USA warned that the persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased since the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP rose to power in 2014. “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences,” the group reported.
Moreover, the report said that Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities,” it added.
The persecution of Christians however, didn’t start after 2014, there were several instances of mass violence against Christians in India including Odhisa’s 2008 Kandhamal violence, where 39 Christians were reportedly killed, 3906 houses were burnt down, 395 Churches were either razed or burnt down, about 6,500 houses plundered or burned down. Over 600 villages were ransacked after which about 75,000 Christians were left homeless. More than 40 women were also sexually assaulted and unofficial reports suggest that the death toll could very well be around 500.
The violence against Christians in India is being and has always has been led by Hindu right-wing nationalist parties.