Indian Police Arrests, Tortures 11 Tribal Christians

Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka arrested and tortured 11 tribal Christians for allegedly forcefully converting Hindus, a Christian persecution watchdog reported Monday.

Washington-based International Christian Concern recently learned that the group of tribal Christians, which included four women, was jailed on Feb. 2. They were all released on bond two days later after local Christian leaders intervened.

"We condemn the Indian police for arresting and torturing the eleven tribal Christians," said Jonathan Racho, regional manager for Africa and South Asia at ICC, in a statement Monday. "We urge India to stop targeting the victims of persecution and protect them against attacks by Hindu radicals."

Hindu extremists in the area accused the tribal Christians of forceful conversion of residents. The Christians were reportedly dragged from their homes and attacked before the extremists filed a police complaint.

While in police custody, the Christians were reportedly tortured and forced to plead guilty to the false accusation.

Local Indian Christian leaders tell ICC that believers do not convert Hindus by force.

The incident in Karnataka is the latest in a string of Christian persecution cases occurring throughout India.

There were at least 152 attacks on Christians in 2009, according to the "Partial List of Major Incidents of Anti-Christian Violence in India," released by the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

And in August 2008, a massive anti-Christian campaign took place throughout India after the assassination of a Hindu leader. Hindu extremists accused Christians of murdering the leader even though Maoist rebels had publicly admitted responsibility for the swami's death.

The anti-Christian campaign resulted in more than 100 people killed and the burning of 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions, according to Compass Direct News.

Last year, the highest number of Christian persecutions in India took place in the state of Karnataka, the same state where the eleven tribal Christians were arrested and harassed.

There are an estimated 25 million Christians (about 2.3 percent of the population) in India. The majority of India's population is Hindu.