South Asia

Attacks on Christians surge in the first 100 days of new rule in Uttar Pradesh

Spikng crime rates, vigilantism, sectarian clashes, moral policing and a growing sense of insecurity felt by the minorities marked the completion of 100 days in office for Yogi Adityanath, the ‘firebrand Hindu cleric’ who is the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India.

Adityanath claims that he is ‘satisfied’ with the work he has done in the first 100 days of his government but the opposition and minorities are not buying it.

When Adityanath, an abbot leading the Gorakhnath monastery, was picked by the BJP for the post of the Chief Minister, many were surprised. Adityanath’s political career has been marked with anti-minority rhetoric and constant reiteration of India being a Hindu Rashtra (nation). Statements like “given a chance, I will install Ganesh statues in every mosque” and calling Mother Teresa, part of a “conspiracy to Christianise India” had given Adityanath much visibility within the Hindutva camp and had earned him much following.

The decision drew sharp criticism from the world media, with the New York times even calling it “Mr. Modi’s Perilous Embrace of Hindu Extremists”. It was for the first time in the history of independent India that a head of a religious institution was appointed to the most important constitutional post in a state as important and politically significant as Uttar Pradesh.

Yogi Adityanath was sworned in as the 21st Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on 19 March 2017. Within a month of his taking over, several of his decisions made news but not all for good reasons. To begin with he waived off farm loans worth 36,359 Crores Indian Rupees (5466 Million USD) thus burdening the central exchequer as confirmed by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh during discussions in Lok Sabha (lower house of the parliament).

Playing to his Hindu hardliner image, he also issued orders to crack down on illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops and put a ban on cow smuggling which has since then become an excuse for attacks on Muslims and Dalits in the state. In addition to it all, anti-Romeo squads were set up in the state to prevent eve-teasing (harassment of women and girls) which resulted in much controversy.

At least two Christian delegations, one from the Roman Catholic Church and the other from the Protestant groups, paid a ‘courtesy visit’ to the newly elected Chief Minister and he reportedly assured them that “no one will be allowed to take law in their own hands and that the community need not fear in the practice of their faith.”

However, as the Adityanath government completes 100 days in office and the national media highlights its achievements and the rise of violence against the Muslim community in the state, the Christian community’s condition under the new government remains unnoticed and unreported except by Global Christian News.  

Since Adityanath assumed office on 19 March 2017, at least 16 incidents of hate crimes against Christians have been reported from various parts of Uttar Pradesh according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

Speaking to Global Christian News, Reverend Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India said, “The trends in Uttar Pradesh are worrisome. Hate crimes against minorities are definitely on the rise and the failure of the state machinery to rope the anti-social elements, from inflicting these horrible atrocities on hapless minorities is only emboldening the miscreants.”

Worried about the increase in attacks on Christians, an independent Church pastor of Uttar Pradesh, Anil Andrias said: “This seems to be a secret plan of the present government. While on media, they proclaim peace; but they seem to have instructed their workers to pursue their work of troubling Christians, hindering their activities and stopping Sunday worship services by instigating their peace-loving neighbourhood against them, even to the extent of violence.”

Even as the Yogi government completes 100 days in office, the national media reported that he had a brainstorming session with associates from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the ideological mother of the BJP and an ultra-right wing organization), and senior ministers in the government on 19 June 2017, during which he expressed that there will be no compromise on core Hindutva values despite the agenda of development. 

The Chief Minister reportedly promised the participants of the meeting that “existing anti-cow slaughter and anti-conversion laws in the state will be strengthened, ‘reforms’ will be brought to education and no new slaughter houses would be allowed to open.” 

Dr John Dayal, United Christian Forum and member of the National Integration Council told Global Christian News, “While the high-profile cases of eve teasing and the Romeo squads have monopolized media and political attention, under the radar, there has been increasing persecution in a patently well-organized manner. A worrisome aspect of this has been that it has escaped not only the media attention but also the attention of the community’s leadership resulting in an absence of protest or intervention.”

In fact, this seems to be the strategy for other government and non-state intrusions into the community’s sphere by way of a revamp of the national education structures which are designing new and what we apprehend to be a Hindutva oriented education system, materials and pedagogy,” said Dr Dayal.

We appeal to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to rope in the anti-social elements so that impunity will be checked and minorities may feel secure,” said the Rev Lal.

Please click on the link here to view the list of incidents.