Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
Updated: September 10, 2020 09:20 AM GMT
Christians pray at the Holy Week procession in New Delhi on April 4, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
Hindu fanatic groups have been accused of making videos of persecution of Christians across India and circulating them on social media.
Shibu Thomas of Persecution Relief said most incidents are recorded in states run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but the highest number has been reported in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
He said numerous videos of Christians being persecuted by religious radicals are being widely circulated on social media, with Facebook alone having a network of 33 million users in India.
These videos are especially uploaded on groups run by Hindu fanatics and then spread to other social media platforms like Twitter and WhatsApp.
These videos aim at inciting hatred and defaming the Christian minority by making false allegations against them, mostly involving religious conversion, Thomas said.
The latest incident was reported from Uttar Pradesh, where a video clip shows two Christian men being stopped by fanatics on a street.
Fanatics are seen questioning a Christian who identifies himself as Jung Bahadur and accusing him of converting a woman standing beside him, but the woman immediately denies the accusation.
However, the woman is ordered to shut her mouth before Bahadur asks his accuser if anyone has complained to him concerning religious conversions.
Bahadur is then abused and threatened. “If we see you here again, we will break your legs. Don’t ever come back here again, otherwise you will be sorry,” he is told.
Thomas and other Christian leaders claim that Christians have been increasingly targeted since the BJP came to power in May 2104.
The BJP projects itself as the champion of Hindus, bolstering Hindu groups to accelerate their action to turn India into a Hindu-only nation.
Thomas, the founder of Persecution Relief, an inter-denominational initiative, says it has recorded 293 cases of Christian persecution in the first half of this year.
In 2019 alone, it recorded 527 cases compared with 447 in 2018, 440 in 2017 and 330 in 2016. From January 2016 to June 2020, Persecution Relief recorded 2,067 cases of persecution against Christians.
Hindu groups fear that India may lose its Hindu character because Dalits and lower castes continue to leave the Hindu fold due to its oppressive caste system and human inequality, Thomas said.
They accuse Christian missionaries of religious conversions but Christian groups vehemently deny this charge.
Thomas said attacks on minorities in India are bound to intensify as influential leaders regularly make hate speeches and promote religious intolerance. Pro-BJP leaders even encourage the persecutors by appreciating their “patriotic works,” he added.
“Poor youth are being brainwashed and lured by the short-lived recognition that these religious nationalists give. It is very dangerous and the circulation of such visuals [videos) must be discouraged,” he said.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom downgraded India to the lowest ranking of “countries of particular concern” in its 2020 report.