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Violence against Indian Christians increases

First 8 months of 2023 saw 525 incidents of violence, up from 505 recorded all last year, rights group says
Catholics from Delhi archdiocese pray during the annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2019

Catholics from Delhi archdiocese pray during the annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)

 

Published: September 11, 2023 09:28 AM GMT
Updated: September 11, 2023 10:03 AM GMT

An India-based ecumenical human rights group says persecution of Christians has increased sharply in the South Asian nation this year.

The New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF) said on Sept. 7 that 525 incidents of violence were reported across 23 of India's 28 states till August this year compared with 505 incidents for the entire previous year.

June witnessed the highest number with 89 incidents, the UCF said in a statement released as India hosted the G20 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, at a two-day summit in New Delhi.

"Indians feel proud about world leaders coming to our country. However, there are Indians facing incidents of violence for practicing their faith,” UCF said.

In July, 80 violent incidents took place and the lowest figure of 47 was reported in May, UCF observed.

Sectarian violence-hit northeastern Manipur state was not included as many places were still inaccessible. The strife-torn state, where tribal Christians are up against the majority Hindu community, has seen over 300 churches destroyed.

Nearly 200 people have died and over 54, 000 have been displaced since violence began on May 3 over granting tribal status to a prosperous Hindu community in the hilly state, bordering civil war-hit Myanmar, to get benefits under India’s affirmative action program.

We are awaiting an official report from government agencies, UCF said about Manipur.

The UCF said that there were 13 districts in the country where practicing Christianity has become dangerous. Bastar in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh tops the list with 51 incidents of violence against Christians followed by Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh with 14 cases. Chhattisgarh has enacted a sweeping anti-conversion law. 

Eleven states, most of them ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have enacted the draconian law, which is often used to target Christians. Chhattisgarh is ruled by an opposition party.

Nearly 520 Christians have been arrested under the anti-conversion law so far this year, the statement said. 

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of attacks. The most populous state, under the stewardship of Modi’s party, reported 211 incidents. The state has pieced together the stringent anti-conversion law.

Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Raebareli, and Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh reported 13 incidents each, followed by Kanpur with 12 cases.

Chhattisgarh, where large-scale violence against Christians started in December-end occupied the second slot, followed by Haryana, ruled by Modi’s party, with 39 incidents. 

In many cases, violence is perpetrated by vigilante groups with alleged links to the BJP.

Nearly 54 cases of social ostracism took place in Chhattisgarh and neighboring Jharkhand. Under this, Christians were denied access to water sources. In a few cases, they were prevented from harvesting their own crops, leading to adverse economic consequences. 

India’s national capital New Delhi also experienced incidents of violence against Christians and in four cases prayer meetings were disrupted by hardline groups. 

According to the UCF,  violent incidents against Christians increased sharply after 2014 when Modi first came to power. 

A general election is slated for next year and Modi is seeking a third consecutive term.

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