An evangelical group issued a report highlighting 351 cases of violence, but the figure is not exhaustive, as many victims are afraid to come forth to report attacks to police. In three years, attacks against churches and other places of worship increased by 28 per cent.
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – Last year “was one of the most traumatic for the Christian community in India since the mass targeted violence of the Kandhamal pogrom in 2007 and 2008”, this according to the Annual Report on Hate Crimes against Christians in India in 2017 released by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFIRLC).
The study "documented at least 351 cases of violence in 2017, by no means an exhaustive compilation as it is based on voluntary reporting and civil society investigations.”
“Most cases go unreported either because the victim is terrified or the police, especially in the northern states, just turn a blind eye and refuse to record the mandatory First Information Report” filed with them.
“The Indian Government admitted in Parliament that ‘communal violence’, the term used to define clashes between religious groups, increased 28% over three years to 2017. No disaggregated data is available, and the criminal justice system at the village and small towns level routinely ignores or violates provisions in the law.”
Among the Indian states, Tamil Nadu is the most "hostile" to Christians (52 cases of violence), followed by Uttar Pradesh (50), Chhattisgarh (43), Maharashtra (38) and Madhya Pradesh (36).
Except for “Tamil Nadu, the other states are either ruled by the BJP directly or in collation [sic] with other parties, and the Sangh* cadres have free hand with the police and administration either looking the other way, or complicit.”
For Rev Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) and the latter’s national director of the Religious Liberty Commission, “It is distressing to see even private worship being attacked by Hindu right-wing activists violating the privacy and sanctity of an individual or a family and trampling upon their constitutional rights.”
Sadly, “attacks on Churches on Sundays and other important days of worship such as Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas have increased.” At the same time, “law enforcement agencies are increasingly being used by non-state actors to stop and disrupt worship in Churches.”
"Christian children going to attend Bible camps with their parents’ permission, being taken into custody and detained for days on suspicion of conversion is bizarre and unheard of.”
“This must stop, and the various state governments and the union government, must move beyond mere lip service and uphold fundamental rights especially the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief”.
* Sangh Parivar (Family of Organisations refers to the body of Hindu nationalist organisations.