Indian Catholic News

Christians face increased violence ahead of elections

The first nine months of this year has recorded a sharp increase in the anti-Christian incidents.

 
file photo
By Saji Thomas
Bhopal: 

Violence against Christians have increased this year across India, which Christian leaders say was part of a pro-Hindu political strategy ahead of general elections next year.

The first nine months of this year has recorded a sharp increase in the anti-Christian incidents, especially in states ruled by pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which supports the idea of turning the country a Hindu-only nation.

“At least 110 Christian pastors were jailed since January this year across India, an all time high. And 15 of them are still in jails,” said Shibu Thomas, founder of ecumenical forum Persecution Relief, which keeps a record of violence against Christians.

Other incidents of violence such as assault on pastors, attacks on Christian institutions, worship places and false police cases against Christians also increased in most states, showed the data compiled by the ecumenical forum.

At least 15 of 29 Indian states regularly witness incidents against Christians, it said.

Until June this year 207 incidents were reported. But the cases shot up lately with August and September alone recording 97 case.

The data showed an increase in each month with with 57 incidents of violence in September alone, with 28 of taking place in Uttar Pradesh state, where Christians are a minuscule minority forming some one percent of state's 220 million people.

Christian leaders like Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal say the attacks have clear political connection with BJP projecting itself as the champions of Hindu interests to placate the majority community in its attempt to retain power in the next general election due in May.

“We are living in a dangerous situation. Christians are attacked and sent to jails for alleged conversions. Muslims are targeted for terrorism,” said Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal.

He said the socially poor like Dalits and tribal people and Muslim minority are “victims” of violence by Hindu groups that work to make India a nation of Hindu dominance.

Since BJP came to power in 2014 in New Delhi mob violence increased in the name of protection of cow, a revered animal in Hinduism, creating a nation uproar.

The attacks against Christians and false police cases are “part of a well-orchestrated strategy to defame the community” which aims to present Christians as law breakers, Archbishop Cornelio said.

“They know it takes hell of lot of time to settle a case in court on account of huge delay, by then Christians get cleared of a case, the damage is already done”, he regrets.

Christian leaders like Thomas say governments in BJP ruled state tacitly support Hindu violence against religious minorities “turning India a land of communal discord.”

The BJP now controls governments in 22 of the 29 states either on its own or with alliance partners.

“We have never seen such a situation where police personnel accompanied by Hindu fundamentalists entering Christian churches and homes to arrest pastors,” notes Thomas.

“Even if we file complaint against fundamentalists, they are not taken on record,” he said. Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state of 220 million people, is the most communally polarized state with 195 communal incidents reported in 2017, according to government data.

Persecution Relief reported 57 incidents of attacks against Christians in Uttar Pradesh in until September this year, including arrest and jailing of pastors.

Pastor Ashok Benjamin of Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh told ucanews.comthat “situation in Uttar Pradesh is at its worst and many cases go unreported”.

Pastor Benjamin said attacks against Christians increased with a Hindu monk-turned-politician, Yogi Adityanath, becoming state chief minister in March 2017.

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