The United Christian Forum (UCF) recently revealed that violence against Christians in India has reached just over half of the nation’s states. Within the short span of the first six months of 2020, the pervasive spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with an increase in the frequency of religiously motivated attacks against Indian Christians: UCF recorded 121 violent incidents, including acts of mob violence and ambushes on churches of worship. They state:
“These incidents reveal the grim reality that the freedom to practice one’s faith is being curtailed in 15 of 28 states in India. Similarly, since 95 incidents recorded. Several of the churches which were attacked, were either illegally occupied or sealed shut. An additional 20 incidents of social boycott took place in several areas as well. “
Out of the 15 states where violence against Christians was reported, the state with the highest recorded number was Chhattisgarh, where “social ostracism” of Christian citizens by their neighbors was a disconcertingly common occurrence. Out of the 121 violent incidents recorded by UCF, 66 women and 16 children were harmed as a result of the confrontations.
USCIRF reveals that this trend of increasing violence towards Christians is not an unforeseen circumstance- in a nation where Hinduism is the primary religion practiced by the vast majority, religious minority communities are always targeted by social agents as well as internal legislation. For example, just last year in 2019, the Indian government ratified the Citizen Amendment Act which allowed for a swift and smooth citizenship acquisition process for all migrants, excluding Muslims. Moreover, the government continued to enforce the discriminatory anti-conversion laws which criminalize religious conversion. Lastly, cow slaughter laws, which prohibit the hunting of cows even to non-Hindu citizens, led to an increase in mob violence against religious minorities and ordinary citizens for their consumption of beef, despite the fact that they do not subscribe to religions that discourage such activity. According to USCIRF:
“Lynch mobs, often organized over social media, have attacked minorities- including Muslims, Christians, and Dalits- under suspicion of eating beef, slaughtering cows, or transporting cattle for slaughter. Since the BJP came to power in 2014, there have been over 100 attacks, amounting to over 98 percent of such attacks since 2010.”
We hope that the realization of inalienable human rights and religious freedom will soon become a reality for Indian citizens, and that the government of the largest democracy in the world will come to fully uphold its obligations to promote the freedoms- in all shapes and forms- of its citizens.