South Asia

Indian Christians face soaring levels of hate crime in 2017

Evangelical Fellowship of India releases list for February 2017

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) released its list of 20 ‘verified’ incidents of hate crimes against Christians for the month of February 2017 this month.

This takes the total number of incidents of hate crimes against Christians in India as compiled by EFI to 38 incidents in the first two months of 2017 with January accounting for 18 incidents.

The 20 recorded incidents took place in 12 states of India with Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh leading the tally at 4 incidents each. Delhi and Bihar reported two incidents each, while Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana recorded one incident each.

Pastor Immanuel Masih, Badarpur, Delhi

10 incidents out of the 20 are instances where Christians have been physically assaulted, while the rest are incidents where worship services have been stopped, Churches vandalized and one incident of a Christian marriage being forcibly stopped by Hindu extremists. (See Global Christian News Website: Hindu extremists disrupt Christian wedding, http://www.globalchristiannews.org/article/hindu-extremists-disrupt-christian-wedding)

Speaking to Global Christian News, Rev. Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India said, “Incidents of hate crimes against the Christian community have been increasing over the last year. There seem to be a pattern to them. Uttar Pradesh for example, which last week has had its election results declared, saw over 40 incidents of hate crimes against Christians last year. This was unusual for the state and it seems that the incidents took place because of political polarization in the state due to the then approaching elections. Thankfully during January and February 2017, just before and during elections, things remained rather peaceful for Christians in the state.”

Pastor Ageshwar Verma, District Bemetara, Chhattisgarh

The incident list was released in the same week when election results were declared for five states of India including Uttar Pradesh. The right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled off a massive victory in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state in terms of population, winning 312 seats out of a total of 403. The BJP also won elections in Uttarakhand state, carved out of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000, winning 56 seats out of 69.

“Mr Narendra Modi’s campaign speeches in the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest in India, repeatedly mentioned graveyards and shamshan ghats, or cremation grounds where the country’s majority Hindu community gives a  ritual farewell to their deceased loved ones.

At around the same time, 3rd February 2017, members of the Bajrang Dal, the militant wing of the Sangh Parivar – Mr Modi was an activist of the Sangh — trespassed into a Christian cemetery in the Odisha village of Khaliapali to cremate the body of a Hindu. They broke the lock, and when confronted by the police, retreat saying they would teach the Christians a lesson.

This lesson has been sought to be taught in repeated incidents in several states of the country,” said Dr. John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council and the spokesperson for the United Christian Forum.

“The BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh, where it did not put up a single Muslim or Christian candidate, gives some cause of concern to religious minorities. Mr Modi, and his lieutenant Mr Amit Shah, the BJP president, have patently set their sight on  an absolute and total conquest of political India, capturing democratic power state by state, based on a  carefully crafted strategy whose bottom-line has been polarization of the people on religious lines, Hindu versus Muslim.

“Christians are collateral damage, essentially clubbed with the Muslims as part of an alien, non-Indic faith group. There is no doubt in any mind that  once the conquest is completed, it will be used to mould the nation into the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation), that  the founders of the BJP and the RSS dreamt 97 years ago,” commented Dr. Dayal.

“While Mr. Modi has spoken that his government would ensure that there is complete freedom of faith, we have so far seen very little in terms of concrete action on the ground. Incidents of hate crimes against minorities seem to be increasing and this is not good for any country. We have been appealing to the central government as well as the respective state governments to take adequate measures to protect the Christian minority as well as other religious minorities from an atmosphere of hate and impunity,” the Rev Lal said.