A persecution watchdog group has started a petition for hundreds of Christian families from over 50 villages in India who have been banned from practicing their faith, and pressured to reconvert to Hinduism.
"Today, we are joining our voice with our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ to call on the Prime Minister of India to specifically address the banning of Christianity. We believe in a society which touts religious tolerance and freedom. No one should be banned from practicing their faith freely. Sign our petition and let Christians in India know they are not alone in this fight," International Christian Concern said in a statement, providing a link to the petition.
Although India's constitution guarantees religious freedom, reports have stated that local authorities in over 50 villages in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh State have targeted Christians in the region by passing a controversial proclamation that bans the open practice of Christianity.
Believers have been facing persecution in the form of violent assaults and being charged for crimes there is little evidence they have committed. Christians have also been denied food, clean water, employment, and other basic necessities, while Hindu extremists have been pressuring them to abandon their faith and reconvert back to Hinduism through illegal fines and a promise to end the social boycott, ICC said.
Vatican Radio has also reported on the persecution of Christians in Chhattisgarh, noting in November that local laws have banned Christian priests from setting foot in a number of the villages.
"The atmosphere in the state is not very conducive for Christians anymore," said former Father Abraham Kannampala, vicar general of Jagdalpur Diocese. "We feel threatened as we are a small minority."
Mgr. Felix Machado, Bishop of Vasai and President of the Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue in the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, added that Christians have been targeted in the past few years in India because they are being blamed for the alleged decline of Hinduism, and are seen as a threat to India's national integrity.
"The issue of religious freedom in India has become extremely complex in recent years. Several Indian States have enacted anti-conversion laws, measures which effectively limit religious freedom," Machado added.
A major inquiry into the 2008 massacre of nearly 100 Christians in Orissa, India, also released in November, noted that although India's Christian population has been rising, so has Hindu extremism.
The investigation documented the series of events that led to the wave of attacks on Christians in Orissa between August 23-31, 2008, which left close to 100 believers dead, while 300 churches and 6,000 homes were raided and looted.
Over the past decade, the Christian population has increased by nearly 16 percent, according to India's 2011 census, now making up over 28 million people.