The religious freedom charity Release International says a rise in attacks against Christians in India is ‘deeply alarming’ and it fears there is a denial in India about the increase in anti-Christian violence.
It says the attacks have been fuelled by right-wing nationalism, while growing numbers of Christians are being arrested under anti-conversion laws.
The United Christian Forum (UCF) has recorded 525 violent attacks to the end of August, more than for the entire previous year in which there were 505 recorded incidents. The UCF says attacks are rising ‘not just year-on-year, but month-on-month’.
UCF says the growing violence follows the passing of sweeping anti-conversion laws in almost 40 per cent of India's 28 states. Most of those states are governed by the ruling nationalist BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Anti-conversion laws supposedly target conversion by force or allurement. But their loose wording means any kind of charitable work could be considered a form of bribery.
Congregations accused of forced conversion have had their buildings ransacked and property destroyed. Human Rights Watch (HRW) claim these laws are often misused by police to target Christians, particularly from the Dalit or Adivasi communities.
The United Christian Forum says 520 Christians have now been arrested and accused of forced conversions. According to International Christian Concern, since 2020 nearly 400 Christians have been charged and jailed in just one state, Uttar Pradesh. 50 were arrested in September alone.
India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, heads the UCF list of states most hostile towards Christians. Others include Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In Manipur, around 254 churches were damaged in recent tribal clashes. The UCF say ‘all these incidents are mob violence led by vigilante groups’.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also flags up the growing attacks. It states: "Over the last decade there has been an undeniable increase in the number and frequency of attacks against religious minorities in India, especially Muslims and Christians."
HRW argues that under the BJP violence is being ‘normalised’ against minorities and impunity is becoming institutionalised.
Release International’s CEO Paul Robinson said: “The rise in attacks against Christians in India is deeply alarming. Equally worrying is the denial in India that anti-Christian violence is indeed growing. We hope these investigations and reports will be received as a clear call to both India and the international community to stop the violence.”