The first half of 2023 has seen a surge in violence against Christians across 23 states in India, according to a New Delhi-based human rights group, which identified 400 incidents, up from 274 reported over the same period last year.
The majority of these violent acts occurred in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, with 155 incidents, according to the report released by the United Christian Forum and shared with The Christian Post.
Chhattisgarh ranked second with 84 cases, followed by Jharkhand with 35, and Haryana with 32. The districts of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh and Bastar in Chhattisgarh reported the most cases of violence, with 13 and 31 incidents, respectively.
According to UCF’s findings, the number of violent incidents against Christians has been rising steadily in India since 2014, with a significant spike observed in 2021 and 2022.
The group also noted in its statement that the month of June saw the highest number of attacks against the Christian community, averaging three incidents per day.
The UCF expressed grave concerns over the situation in the northeastern state of Manipur, where the ongoing violence has resulted in the loss of at least 130 lives and caused the destruction of over 400 churches.
Amid these atrocities, the UCF said the Christian community faced a disproportionate number of arrests compared to the accused individuals. The organization pointed out the discrepancy in the filing of formal police complaints, with 63 lodged against Christians, leading to the incarceration of 35 pastors. This disparity is despite the community being the victims of such violence, it pointed out.
The UCF also identified bureaucratic delays as a significant barrier to justice, noting that such impediments resulted in prolonged imprisonment for those who managed to secure bail. They further highlighted the misuse of the Freedom of Religion Act, commonly known as “anti-conversion” laws, stating that false allegations of conversions under this act had resulted in numerous police complaint against members of the Christian community.
The UCF’s National Coordinator, A.C. Michael, spoke to UCA News, saying the group had petitioned the Supreme Court regarding the increase in attacks and false police cases against the Christian community.
The petition requests the appointment of a Special Investigation Team comprising retired senior police officers to examine the lists of incidents provided by both the government and the UCF. The goal is to establish a transparent understanding of the situation.
Michael expressed concern over the government’s reliance on third-party reports — which are routinely filed by Hindu nationalist group, and not by alleged “victims” — and its failure to validate the alleged incidents of forced conversions.
Despite the UCF’s numerous pleas to high-level officials including President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, they have yet to receive a response.
For India’s Christians, 2021 was the “most violent year” in the country’s history, with at least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution reported in the year.
“In almost all incidents reported across India, vigilante mobs composed of religious extremists have been seen to either barge into a prayer gathering or round up individuals that they believe are involved in forcible religious conversions,” said that year’s report by the UCF.
The UCF attributed the high incidence of Christian persecution to “impunity,” due to which “such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions.”