A federation of Indian American Christian groups says it documented at least 761 incidents of violence against Christians, including lynching and armed assaults last year. It is recommended that the U.S. and European governments impose sanctions on officials who promote violence and exclusion of religious minorities.
“The year 2021 has proven to be the most violent year for Christians in India,” said John Prabhudoss, the chairman of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, at a press conference in Washington, D.C., this week.
Prabhudoss said FIACONA documented and analyzed all the 761 incidents, adding that the number of anti-Christian attacks is likely to be much higher because most of the incidents are not reported.
Christians and other minorities, he explained, do not trust the police, especially in rural areas. “The current hostile environment in India amplifies that distrust.”
Prabhudoss added that a survey by FIACONA in states where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is governing showed that 72% of Christians believe that the police will not protect their lives, liberty, property or their way of life.
The report by FIACONA said India’s judiciary is also not viewed as being independent and impartial.
“The higher courts in India have been passing judgments favoring views of the political establishments rather than based on legal merits of the cases,” it stated. “Many recent judgments have made some wonder if the integrity of the high courts is compromised.”
It adds, “Common citizens of India, especially the religious minorities, observe and feel that the governments led by BJP are implementing the majoritarian ideology, namely ‘Hindutva.’”
The government, it continued, “is subservient to” the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an umbrella Hindu nationalist group, and its “multiple associates specializing in radical and violent means to exclude and demean the Christians.”
FIACONA also accused some media outlets and social media giants of being aligned with Hindu nationalists that are inciting attacks on religious minorities and calling for genocide.
“Most major media houses both in print and TV are either controlled or owned by tycoons who are in league with the Hindu nationalist ecosystem,” it said. “And it is more visible in Hindi and some other vernacular media. It has been confirmed that even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in India are manipulated by the radical Hindu sympathizers.”
A Hindu nationalist-leaning religious conclave, called Dharma Sansad, held in the city of Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand from Dec. 17–19, 2021, called for genocide of religious minorities, the report noted, adding that another call for genocide was made by a different Hindu nationalist group in the southern state of Karnataka on Feb. 25.
The FIACONA report also noted that India’s “anti-conversion” laws are used as a tool to arrest religious minorities, including Christians, on false charges of forced conversions.
The anti-conversion laws presume that Christians pressure Hindus to convert to Christianity. Some of these laws have been in place for decades in some states. Radical Hindu nationalist groups frequently use the laws to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them under the pretext that they're enticing people to convert with the promise of food gifts.
Under these laws, Christians are also prohibited from talking about the afterlife.
The report further noted that Overseas Friends of BJP USA, which is a registered outfit in the U.S. as a foreign agent under FARA regulations, is also an offshoot of the RSS “to provide a much needed support mechanism for their activities in India.”
“We recommend that India-based non-state actors and key officials that promote violence and exclusion of religious minorities from the society be identified and sanctioned by the United States and European governments,” it said.
Another report released by the United Christian Forum in India earlier this year recorded at least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution in 2021.
The UCF also 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.”
Police registered formal complaints in only 34 of the 486 cases, according to the UCF. “Often communal sloganeering is witnessed outside police stations, where the police stand as mute spectators,” the UCF report stated.
“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”
The U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern earlier warned that “the pace of Christian persecution only seems to be accelerating with the arrival of 2022,” and “whether 2022 will be as violent of a year as 2021 is yet to be seen.”
Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%.