According to media reports, there have been 26 incidents of religiously motivated violence against Christians in the first six weeks of 2016. Reports of violence are spread across India, unlike previous outbursts of anti-Christian violence which were limited to a particular region or issue. The reported violence ranges from physical assaults on Christians and their places of worship to false charges of forced conversions being leveled against Christian leaders. As the violence spreads, the Hindu radicals perpetrating the violence enjoy near complete impunity.
Christian Leaders Beaten and Dragged in Tamil Nadu
In one incident, a Catholic priest and three Christian church officials were ruthlessly attacked, beaten, and dragged by a mob of 35 Hindu radicals in the village of Ettimadai in Tamil Nadu, on January 29. This attacked resulted in the hospitalization of four Christians. Most disturbing was that the Christians were attacked as they waited in their car outside of a police station to speak with authorities concerning the arrests of a priest and two others from a church-run AIDS/HIV center.
The Christians tried to escape from their attackers, but were caught by the mob and then dragged and beaten for a mile and a half. Despite their cries for help, the police did not intervene on their behalf. As a result, all four victims had to be taken to the hospital where the priest required medical attention in the intensive care unit.
“What was shocking,” said Fr. Johnson Veepattuparambil, the Public Relations Officer for the Catholic Bishop House of Syro Malabar Church, “is the police inaction in protecting Christians. When things [take] place right under [the police’s] nose, it makes minorities [feel] more vulnerable.”
Six Hospitalized for Attending Prayer Meeting in Telangana
In another incident, Pastor Nitin Kumar and his church members were brutally beaten by a mob of 40 Hindu radicals in Nagepur village, located in the Nizamabad District of Telangana State after the radicals falsely accused the pastor of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity. According to local Christians, Hindu radicals attacked Christians who had gathered for a prayer meeting on January 17. The attack disrupted the Christian prayer gathering and resulted in the hospitalization of six Christians, including a four-year-old girl whose leg was broken in the attack.
“It was [a] very scary scene,” Pastor Kumar, told ICC. “They tore my cassock and I received blows, punches, [and] kicks from all directions as I was their prime target. [Our] Bibles were snatched from us and were tore and trampled. [Other] believers ran to all directions as they were chased by the mob.”
Rev. Ronald John, President of the Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee (TCJAC), told ICC that, “Christians are paying [a] heavy price for following Jesus. This is not acceptable. This country is supposed to be [a] free nation where everyone has [the] right to profess and practice the religion of their choice. The governments should take note of this violence and take measures to safeguard the rights of all, no matter what the religious identity is.”
Christian Pastors Jailed for Alleged Forced Conversions in Madhya Pradesh
In similar incident, Christians in Madhya Pradesh have been falsely accused and arrested for forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity under the state’s anti-conversion law. According to the Union of Catholic Asian News, 12 Christians were arrested and jailed after being accused of violating a law restricting religious conversions. The arrests followed accusations by a local Hindu group that Hindus at the gathering with Christians who were attempting to convert them to Christianity.
The Christians were arrested on January 14 in Dahar village, located in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar District. To further punish the Christians, the Dahar village council fined four other Christians 5,000 rupees, equivalent to $75, each for merely practicing Christianity five days later on January 19.
Bans on Christianity Continue in Chhattisgarh
In Chhattisgarh state, the onslaught against the Christian community continued into 2016. In 2015 and 2014, Chhattisgarh ranked near the top for the number of attacks on Christians. On February 5, Pastor Simon Tandy and his wife were violently attacked by the members of a local Hindu radical group. Following the attack, the pastor’s conditions is said to be critical due to a severe head injury he received.
According to ICC’s sources in Chhattisgarh, Pastor Tandy’s church in Salehotala, Kankher was vandalized by the same group. A mob then hung a banner at the village entrance that made a hateful statement about Christians. Since then, the Christians in Salehotala have been under remarkable pressure with the village council passing a resolution banning non-Hindu religions in the village and imposing a social boycotts against local Christians unless they convert to Hinduism.
Recently, on January 13, the High Court of Chhattisgarh ruled that village resolutions banning non-Hindu religions were unconstitutional. However, it seems that the court’s ruling has not stopped Hindu radicals in Salehotala.
Good Reason to be Afraid
Dr. John Dayal, a Christian activist in India, told ICC that, “The attack on the Catholic group in [Tamil Nadu] is only one of scores of incidents that have taken place in the first weeks of the New Year. Some have been very blatant, including the torturing of a small town pastor in the state of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly ‘converting’ some villagers to Christianity.”
“The state impunity [enjoyed by perpetrators] and the complicity of the police is ominous,” Dr. Dayal stated. “Religious minorities have good reason to be afraid.”
Christian persecution in India has dramatically escalated in the early parts of 2016 causing many members of India’s Christian community to fear for their safely. Already 26 attacks have been recorded in the first six weeks of 2016. The trend is terrifying and must be turned around if 2016 is to avoid being another record year for Christian persecution in India