03/04/2015, 00.00
INDIA

Religious freedom increasingly at risk in India as new attacks are perpetrated against Christians

by Nirmala Carvalho
In Rajasthan, police beat 20 Christians for handing out leaflets. In Madhya Pradesh, a group of rightwing Hindus disrupted a local Pentecostal prayer service. For the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), "India is a secular democracy, not a theocracy."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - India's Christian communities have suffered new attacks, casting doubts over the status of religious freedom in the country.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has reported two new cases to AsiaNews. The worst took place in Rajasthan last Friday, when police beat 20 Christians for distributing leaflets. The second occurred in Madhya Pradesh last Sunday and involved a Pentecostal community.

In late February, a group of 20 Christians from Hyderabad (Telangana) travelled to Jaipur, Rajasthan, to distribute leaflets in Mansarowar Colony.

When this was happening, someone called the police, who took the Christians into custody. Once in the police station, police officers lined up the Christians against a wall and whipped their hands and wrists.

"India is a secular democracy, not a theocracy," said Sajan George. "This group of Christians was just handing out leaflets: there is nothing criminal in this activity. It is the police that acted in a criminal fashion. Hindus distribute and even sell religious literature, but are protected by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, which is constantly denied to Christians."

The second incident occurred in the village of Kasba Jobat (Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh). Rev Emmanuel Nobel, head of the local Pentecostal community, was celebrating the Sunday liturgy, when members of the Hindu Jagran Manch (a rightwing Hindu organisation) forced their way into the farmhouse where the meeting was taking place. The radical group stopped the prayer service, accusing those present of engaging in forced conversions.

"Threats, intimidation and attacks against Pentecostal Christians are frequent in Madhya Pradesh, a state ruled by the (Hindu nationalist) Bharatiya Janata Party, this causes fear and insecurity among the state's minorities," the GCIC president said.

"Unfounded accusations of conversions obtained through force or deception are often directed against Christians, and the local anti-conversion law is used as a political tool to target minorities."

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