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India’s top court delays hearing anti-Christian violence plea

Petitioners, including an archbishop, are seeking an immediate stop to targeted hate speech and violence
Indian Catholics pray at the yearly feast of Christ the King in New Delhi on Nov. 24, 2018

Indian Catholics pray at the yearly feast of Christ the King in New Delhi on Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)

Published: July 12, 2022 05:47 AM GMT
Updated: July 12, 2022 06:12 AM GMT

The Supreme Court of India has postponed the hearing of a plea seeking protection from and investigations into rising attacks on Christians and their institutions across the nation.

A bench headed by Justice D. Y. Chandrachud on July 11 adjourned the matter to a later date as the documents related to the plea were not circulated among the concerned parties to the case.

“We will take it up on Friday,” Justice Chandrachud told Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who is appearing for the petitioners that include Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore, the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

Gonsalves, in a June 27 petition, had sought an urgent listing of the matter arguing violent attacks against Christians and their institutions were on the rise with an average of 45 to 50 incidents reported in the country every month.

In May, 57 violent incidents were reported, the highest in a month so far, and more such attacks are expected the senior advocate told the court.

The petitioners have sought immediate action against the "sinister phenomena of violence" and "targeted hate speech" against the Christian community by alleged vigilante groups.

"a New Delhi-based rights group, in its annual report called 2021 the 'most violent year'”

The violence has been increasing owing to the failure of the government machinery to protect its own citizens, the petitioners added.

They have sought the setting up of special investigation teams with independent officers from outside the provinces or districts where the incidents are reported and registered as crimes to ensure impartial investigations.

In 2018, India’s Supreme Court issued a slew of guidelines for the federal and provincial governments in states and union territories to control and prevent the increasing number of hate crimes, including mob violence and lynchings targeting religious minorities.

The guidelines included fast-tracked trials, victim compensation, deterrent punishment and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcement officials.

Meanwhile, the United Christian Forum (UCF), a New Delhi-based rights group, in its annual report called 2021 the “most violent year” in terms of targeted violence against Christians.

The UCF said it had registered 486 incidents of violence in 20 states and two union territories last year.

In almost all incidents reported across India, vigilante mobs composed of religious extremists were seen to either barge into prayer gatherings or round up individuals that they believe were involved in forcible religious conversions.

India has been witnessing increased religious polarization since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, some 80 percent of who are Hindus.

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