Christian families living in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh have been told that they are banned from burying their dead until they pay fines issued to them for refusing to take part in Hindu festivals and rituals.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom India, three separate incidents occurred across the districts of Bastar and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh which involved Christians being prohibited from holding burial ceremonies for their loved ones until they paid "restitution" for not partaking in their village's Hindu festivals.
ADF India said: "It is a terrible and unimaginable thing to be denied an opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one with dignity."
ADF added that there have been "fifteen such confirmed incidents in these districts since 2019." In response, the religious freedom group raised the situation with the police officer in charge of the concerned district. The group was happy to report that upon their intervention, "the Christians were provided police protection, and in some cases even provided land by the government, for the burials to take place."
Now, in order to stop this happening again in the future, Christians leaders in the state plan on submitting a memorandum to the government and will possibly even lodge a petition with the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur.
The coronavirus pandemic has also brought a new angle to the unfair treatment of Indian Christians by limiting the places in which they can legally bury their relatives.
According to a local outlet, the family of a recently deceased 61-year-old Christian woman who died of Covid-19 were forced to cremate her after their local cemetery refused to allow her burial.
A relative of the covid-19 victim said: “According to the Bible, it is said that we are born out of dust and we go back to dust. When we aren’t given an option to bury the body, it hurts our sentiments. We were literally left with no option but to let the body be put in electric crematorium along with the coffin.”
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has so far identified 20 Muslim cemeteries where covid-19 victims may be buried, but have yet to specify any Christian burial sites.
Christians across India face routine violence for refusing to participate in the many rituals and observances hosted by the country's Hindu communities, as ADF explains:
"In most incidents, Christians were summoned to village meetings when they refused to participate in religious rituals that violate their conscience. They were called on the pretext of working out a compromise but were instead threatened to either comply with the diktats of the village council or face consequences. When the Christians refused to go against their own beliefs, they were physically attacked by mobs consisting of more than 50 persons."
There are around 66.2 million Christians currently residing in India out of a population of nearly 1.4 billion. Open Doors ranks India at number ten on it's World Watch List, noting that followers of Jesus "face horrific levels of violence from extremists, with thousands of attacks taking place every year."