New Delhi: On Sunday (February 19), over 2,000 people belonging to the Christian community led by their religious leaders – archbishops, bishops, pastors and nuns – from all over India gathered for a mass protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
The congregation, organised by the Delhi-NCR Christian community, was held to highlight concerns about the alarming hike in reports of hate crimes and discrimination against Christians across the country. Around 79 churches including Baptist Council of Churches, United Pentecostal Church – North East India, Manipur Evangelical Lutheran Church and others participated in the protest, calling it the first such agitation in over a decade. The last protest held by the community was regarding the issue of Dalit Christians, as per the press release circulated at the event.
Community leaders attempted to draw the attention of Union and state governments, civil society and the judiciary towards what they believe is targeted violence directed against Christians in the country. Senior journalist and human right activist John Dayal, while speaking from the podium, said, “The state machinery has betrayed us, and we appeal to the government to take cognisance of the targeted attacks against the Christian community in several states including Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.”
On Saturday, United Christian Forum (UCF) president Michael Williams, Dayal and rights activist Meenakshi Singh released a report on violence against Christians. According to the UCF report, there has been a sharp 400% rise, from 147 in 2014 to 598 in 2022, in cases of violence being reported against the minority community in the country. The top five states are Uttar Pradesh with 186, Chhattisgarh with 132, Jharkhand with 51, Karnataka with 37 and Tamil Nadu with 33 reported incidents.
The UCF report further states that a total of 74 anti-conversion cases were filed against Christians in 2022, of which 56 alone were in Uttar Pradesh. According to the report, Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of Christians (332) arrested last year, followed by Karnataka with 40, Madhya Pradesh with 21, and Uttarakhand with 17 arrests.
Dayal mentioned the incidents of denial of ration and burial grounds to Christians, attacks on churches during prayer meets on Sundays, and ultimatums of “ghar wapsi” (conversion to Hinduism) given to the tribal Christians of Chhattisgarh which resulted in their forceful eviction from villages, compelling them to take refuge in forests. William talked about meeting the chief minister of Chhattisgarh in mid-December informing him about the incidents taking place in Bastar district, yet people were forcefully evicted them from their villages. Dayal mentioned the incidents again from the protest site on Sunday and said, “They (Hindutva groups) want this country to be without father (Christians) and chadar (Muslims).”
Pointing to the absence of Christian representation in the five members from amongst the minority communities in the National Commission for Minorities nominated by the Union government, Dayal said, “Maybe they want to teach us a lesson or tell us something.”
As per another report mentioned in the conference which was released on January 30 by an organisation of NRI Christians, the Federation of Indian American Christians of North America (FIACONA), a total of 1,198 incidents of violence against Christians have been documented. According to the report, Uttar Pradesh leads with 334 incidents followed by Chhattisgarh with 195, Madhya Pradesh with 113, Jharkhand with 76 and Tamil Nadu with 66 incidents.
Last week, in Narmadapuram district of Madhya Pradesh, a church was attacked and vandalised. Three people were arrested for inscribing ‘Ram’ on the church wall and setting ablaze furniture in an attempt to set the Sunday prayer hall on fire.
Edited by Jahnavi Sen.