Hundreds of people gather in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi to protest against the rising number of attacks on Christians and their places of worship in February (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj)
The past year has seen an increase in the number of attacks in India on Christians and Muslims under the ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to a report compiled by human rights activists.
The report, titled 365 Days: Democracy and Secularism Under the Modi Regime, was released on Thursday in Delhi to highlight the number of alleged persecution cases and hate speeches against the two religious minorities by the Hindu majority.
It was compiled by several activists that included Shabnam Hashmi, the founder of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy); John Dayal, spokesman of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR); and Professor Apoorvanand, a literary and cultural critic who teaches Hindi at Delhi University
According to the report, there were more than 200 cases of persecution against Christians, more than 170 against Muslims and more than 230 reported hate speeches leveled against the two communities in the last year around the country. Comparative figures from previous years were not provided in the report.
Besides Delhi, the report was also released in 15 other cities across the country.
The Narendra Modi-led BJP, which came to power in May last year following a landslide election win, has been accused by rights activists of trying to turn the country into a Hindu nation with the backing of the hardline Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
“This report is a public document. As activists we have presented before the nation what is happening. If things continue in the direction they are going, then there would be a big attack on our democracy. It is a dangerous signal,” said Hashmi.
The report's allegations of ongoing violence are at odds with the Indian government, which has claimed that Prime Minister Modi's election has largely ended violence against the country's minority communities.
Last month India's minister for minority affairs, Najma Heptulla, told journalists during a visit to Srinagar that no attacks on religious or ethnic minorities had taken place under Modi's first year as prime minister, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper.
"No one has attacked the minorities. No riots took place anywhere. Only verbal attacks were taking place, but that has stopped now," the minister was reported as saying.
In the report released Thursday, activists expressed concern over the way incidents of communal violence were taking place in a very “planned manner”.
“You may not see blood spilled on the streets; still, the minority community gets affected at large,” said Harsh Mander, an activist and author who also helped compile the report.
The activists pointed to a recent case of communal violence in the village of Atali, in the northern Indian state of Haryana, where Muslims were attacked and their houses allegedly burned by Hindu militants. The Muslim community had to flee the village and take shelter at a police station.
“The incident is an example of how segregation of minority communities has started happening in the country. The victims were brought in to the village after promises of protection for them, and now they are not allowed to meet any community leaders,” Professor Apoorvanand said.
“A different kind of violence, more psychological, is happening. There is a re-ordering of social relations in the country. There is an attempt to tame minority communities,” he added.
In a veiled attack on the pro-Hindu RSS, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, an activist who also contributed to the report, told ucanews.com that the problem is not with the government, but "with the extra-constitutional forces which think that it is their country and they can get away with anything they do”.
He said that these forces have created grass roots activists who are totally communalized and attack minorities.
Rawat said it is the duty of the government to prevent the situation from getting worse.
Dismissing government claims that attacks on minorities have decreased, the UCFHR's Dayal accused the government of keeping incidents of communal violence under wraps.
“They are not reported. In those states, which are ruled by the BJP, the police, government and the RSS is one seamless entity. The cases that happen do not come out in the open,” Dayal said.