New Delhi: A spate of attacks against the Christian community have been reported in the past three months across the country, from Uttarakhand to Madhya Pradesh to Karnataka.
A number of these attacks have been perpetrated by mobs led by Hindu Right-wing groups, primarily over allegations of ‘religious conversion’. Most have taken and in states that are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
These incidents came on the back of 305 similar attacks that took place between January and September this year, according to a human rights report released in October by United Against Hate, Association for Protection of Civil Rights, and United Christian Forum (UCF).
Based on the number of distress calls received by the UCF, Uttar Pradesh reported the most (66) such cases, followed by Chhattisgarh with 47, while Karnataka reported 32 incidents. Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh reported 30 each, the report said.
Christians form the third-largest religious group in the country, after Hindus and Muslims, with 2.78 crore followers of the faith, according to the 2011 Census. The community accounts for or 2.3 per cent of the country’s population.
Here are some of the major attacks on the community in the last three months.
Roorkee prayer house attack, 3 October
Armed with iron rods, a mob of nearly 250 people, allegedly including members from Right-wing Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal, the BJP and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) ransacked a prayer house in Roorkee, Uttarakhand.
Five people present at an event at the prayer house were injured, with one admitted to hospital in critical condition. The alleged perpetrators accused the church of ‘illegal conversion’.
The police filed a case against certain members of the Bajrang Dal, the BJP and the VHP, among other 200 unidentified men, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including under sections 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship) and 296 (disturbing religious assembly). No culprit has been arrested so far.
A cross-FIR was also filed against 11 Christian community members over the ‘conversion’ allegation.
Delhi church vandalisation, 28 November
Members of the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) allegedly vandalised a newly set up church in the national capital’s Dwarka area. The miscreants damaged the property of the warehouse-turned-church and its signboard.
The police lodged two FIRs. The first was against the people who were participating in the Sunday prayer meet at the premises, which had not been officially registered as a religious site, for violation of Delhi Disaster Management Act guidelines. The second was against those who were responsible for the vandalism. One person was arrested under IPC sections of public nuisance.
“Some people had gathered at a warehouse where they had put a board with word ‘CHURCH’ to which locals had objected as they claim it to have been done clandestinely. In this quarrel, some local miscreants tried to vitiate the atmosphere by vandalising the said board,” an Indian Express report quoted Dwarka DCP Shankar Choudhary as saying.
Mob attack on Vidisha school, 6 December
A mob of around 300 people allegedly vandalised a Catholic school in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district after a video on YouTube alleged that the school was converting its Hindu students to Christianity.
The image cited in the video was later found to be that of an event held in October where eight Catholic children received First Communion and Confirmation from the bishop at St Joseph Church, according to the portal Vatican News.
The portal quoted school principal Brother Anthony Pynumkal as saying that the mob, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans, stormed the school and damaged its property, even as Class 12 students were writing their board exams in the CBSE-affiliated school.
The school administration also pointed fingers at inaction by the police, adding that the request for protection was “played down”.
Burning Christian religious books in Kolar, 12 December
Members of Hindu Right-wing groups allegedly set fire to Christian religious books in Karnataka’s Kolar district over the accusation that some members of the community were distributing books in the Hindu neighborhood to propagate Christianity.
Calling the incident the “38th attack on religious minorities in Karnataka in the last 12 months”, an NDTV report underlined how a series of such attacks followed after the BJP-led state government started considering a bill to ban forcible religious conversions.
However, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told ThePrint that fears around the anti-conversion bill are “unjustified” and the government’s only aim is to prevent forceful or coerced conversions.
“It is not only the Karnataka government that is trying to bring such laws. Other states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat already have laws to ban forced conversions. We considered bringing this law after several cases of forced conversion came to our notice,” Bommai said, adding, “No member of any community has to fear they will be harassed.”
Hindutva groups also went on to allegedly disrupt Christmas celebrations in as many as seven states, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Assam, among others.
In Haryana, members of the Bajrang Dal allegedly threatened schools to not dress kids as Santa Claus without consent from their parents.
Several members of a Hindu Right-wing group also disrupted a Christmas programme at a school in Gurugram’s Pataudi. The group claimed that the festive event was used as an opportunity to “brainwash” children into accepting Christianity.
In Ambala, two men desecrated a Jesus Christ statue near the Holy Redeemer Church in the cantonment, following Christmas prayers.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)