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New Delhi: On October 3, more than 200 unidentified men and women, allegedly belonging to local right-wing groups, vandalised a church in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, and attacked several people, including women, assembled there for prayers on a Sunday. No action has been taken in the case yet, despite assurances.
The spate of such incidents of hate crimes, mob violence against Christians only seems to be increasingly compounded by rallies and slogans against the community based on triggering fears and anxieties over ‘religious conversions’.
Human rights groups which monitor atrocities against Christians in India have documented the violence by Hindutva groups from all states and released a fact-finding report titled ‘Christians under attack in India’. The report highlights that over 300 such instances have been reported from across 21 states, particularly North India, in nine months of this year.
The report was released in Delhi on October 21, Thursday, by the Association of Protection Civil Rights, United Christian Forum and United against Hate at a press conference.
Speaking at the press conference, A.C. Michael, the former member of Delhi Minorities Commission and National Coordinator of United Christian Forum (UCF), said, “The fears which are being fuelled of Christians converting Hindus is baseless. The brutal attacks have taken place across 21 states. Most of the incidents are taking place in the northern states and 288 instances were of mob violence. This is a scary situation, raising critical questions over the role and the position of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the home ministry and their failures in stopping this violence.”
He added, “Over 49 FIRs have been registered too, but no substantial action has taken place.”
According to media reports, there have been several attacks on churches, especially in Uttar Pradesh, and hate speech against Christians in other parts of India, especially in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.
Sharing her testimony of the attack on the church in Roorkee, Eva Lance stated, “More than 200 people chanting slogans entered our church, we were [also] threatened for a week before [the incident] but no action was taken. On Sunday, the CCTV cameras were broken and communal slurs were hurled at us. Women present in the church were dragged by their hair and punched in the chest.”
She added, “Despite this grave violation of our rights, counter FIRs were registered against us with charges as serious as murder, molestation and even dacoity but no action has taken place on our complaint. Since that incident we have been living in complete fear with polarisation gripping our localities.”
Rajat Kumar, the helper at the church, was attacked by the mob with iron rods. He sustained serious injuries after being allegedly hit with iron rods multiple times on his head. “They dragged me by my neck to the ground floor while raining blows on my face and back. I became unconscious after I was hit with a rod on my head,” his testimony read.
Other instances of mob violence
Earlier this week, members of the right-wing Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad entered a church in Karnataka’s Hubballi singing bhajans, as a show of protest, alleging forced religious conversions. A video of the incident showed dozens of women and men sitting inside the Bairidevarkoppa Church in Hubli around 11 am singing bhajans with folded hands over their heads. Later, the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Arvind Bellad blocked a highway demanding the arrest of pastor Somu Avaradhi.
On October 10, the Uttar Pradesh Police in Mau district took several people into custody after receiving complaints from members of a right-wing Hindutva group that they were allegedly involved in converting people into Christianity. The Hindutva group then forced the Christian worshipers, including the priest, to the police station as the Hindutva mob was accusing the group of ‘converting’ people.
The fact-finding report highlighted that a vast majority of such attacks have taken place against Christians belonging to the Dalit and the tribal communities.
Instances of violence against Christians in Chhattisgarh are also on the rise. On August 29, a group of more than 100 people allegedly beat up a 25-year-old pastor after barging into his house at a remote village in Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district.
The Guardian reported that the series of attacks in Chhattisgarh have been ongoing since the beginning of the year. “In some villages, Christian churches have been vandalised, in others pastors have been beaten or abused. Congregations have been broken up by mobs and believers hospitalised with injuries. The police, too, stand accused – of making threats to Christians, hauling them into police stations and carrying out raids on Sunday prayer services.”
The attacks are rooted in the claim of the Hindu nationalist groups that Christians are fuelling conversions of Hindus by luring people by means of cash payments, foreign trips and medical assistance.