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Violence against India's Christians on the rise

Resurgence of right-wing Hindu groups has made things worse, says report

Violence against India's Christians on the rise

Indian Christians and social activists in Allahabad last March 16 protest against the gang rape of an elderly nun that occurred earlier that month. (Photo by Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)

Published: January 19, 2016 05:25 AM GMT

Updated: January 20, 2016 03:20 AM GMT

On average, Indian Christians reported being subjected to violent attacks for every day of 2015 but the actual number of such incidents would be much higher.

All across India, there were over 365 reported incidents against Christians last year, including seven cases of murder, the Mumbai-based Christian rights group Indian Christian Persecution annual report published on Jan. 18.

Among the other offenses committed against Christians documented in the report include rape, the vandalism of churches, and the disruption of worship and services.

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The reported incidents against Indian Christians "are miniscule compared to the actual ground zero reality, where we work," said Joseph Dias who is the group's director.

Dias reported cases are "much fewer" than what actually occurs for a variety of reasons. In some cases Christians did not want to report incidents simply because they "do not want to antagonize those in power ... or out of fear of repercussions," he said.

What is more, he said, the targeting of Christians has been getting worse. Incidents have increased at an average of 20-25 percent each year over the past five years, according to Dias.

"Murders have almost doubled from last year's four or five cases," Dias said.

"What is alarming is the geographical spread of the violence. In 2014, we had reports of violence from only 18 states, but in 2015 we have reports from 23 of India's 29 states."


Right-wing Hindu groups

The resurgence of right-wing Hindu groups in recent times "has made things worse" for Christians, Dias said.

Following the 2014 general election, the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, or Indian people's party) came to power in New Delhi and Dias said that several Hindu groups took this as a mandate to work for a Hindu-only India. As part of this, these groups stepped up their anti-Christian activities, he noted.

"There has been a very marked rise in attacks on minorities with the swearing in of new BJP led governments in the center [federal] and in states. The only respite has been Delhi and Bihar, where the BJP suffered humiliating defeats [in state elections]," the report said.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of India's estimated 1.25 billion people.


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