New Delhi: The number of alleged violent crimes against members of the Christian community in India rose nearly 75 per cent to 486 in 2021 from 279 in 2020, shows a new report by a Christian rights protection body.
The United Christian Forum said 2021 was the “most violent year for Christians” in India since 2014, when the group started a toll-free helpline that assists Christians in distress to reach public authorities. The body counts an incident as an alleged crime once it authenticates a complaint raised, through its network.
The forum said the last two months of the year “witnessed over one hundred (104) incidents as if to warn Christians from celebrating the birthday of Lord Jesus Christ — Christmas”. October was the most violent month (77 incidents), it said.
According to the report released Friday, the 2021 figures are much higher than previous years — 127 (2014), 142 (2015), 226 (2016), 248 (2017), 292 (2018) and 328 (2019).
In 2021, the report said, Uttar Pradesh saw the maximum number of such alleged crimes with 102 instances, followed by Chhattisgarh (90). Four states — Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand (44) and Madhya Pradesh (38) — recorded 274 incidents (56 per cent) of violence against Christians, the report added.
“In almost all incidents reported across India, vigilante mobs composed of religious extremists have been seen to either barge into a prayer gathering or round up individuals that they believe are involved in forcible religious conversions,” the report said.
“With impunity, such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions. Often communal sloganeering is witnessed outside police stations, where the police stand as mute spectators,” it added.
The report said the helpline “through its advocacy and interventions managed to obtain release of 210 persons from detention”. “Also 46 places of worship were reopened or continue to have prayer services. But only 34 FIRs could only be registered against the violence perpetrators,” it said.
‘False narrative damaging religious harmony’
A.C. Michael, who runs the forum and is a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said hatred being created through a “false narrative” is damaging religious harmony.
“The hatred being created against Christians by the speeches and actions alleging that they deceitfully convert people has led to the increase in incidence of such crimes. But where is the proof of such incidents happening? The anti-conversion bill has been put in place in several states now but it (law) has existed in Odisha since 1967. There hasn’t been a single conviction under that law in Odisha,” he told ThePrint.
“This false narrative that is being created by a certain section of people is damaging religious harmony in several states,” Michael said.
Alleging that the mob often has connections with the police, he said: “Often when these mobs gather outside a church where prayers are happening, the police end up arresting the pastor. The mob carries enough clout to influence them to do so.”
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)