Violence against Christians continued unabated during Covid-19 lockdown: Report

Religious Liberty Commission’s annual report finds UP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP and Tamil Nadu as states with worst records

attack on christians

A report titled Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India has found that attacks on India’s Christian minority population continued, and in fact grew during the Covid-19 induced national lockdown.

The yearly report for 2020 by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Foundation of India mentions the atmosphere of hate for religious minorities and says, “While Muslims were the main targets, Christians, especially pastors in rural areas of several states across the country, were victims of violence, their congregational prayers disturbed, and places of worship attacked. Political excoriation, police impunity, and vigilante groups on their trail, marked the experience of many Christian communities in several parts of the country at the height of the Covid-19 spread.”

It further says, “The EFI Religious Liberty Commission and other Christian agencies including a national Helpline co-founded by the EFI five years ago, documented 327 cases, in which at least five people lost their lives, at least six Churches were burnt or demolished, and 26 incidents of social boycott were recorded. This is by no means an exhaustive list of incidents, many of which remain mostly unreported and unrecorded even in normal years because of the fear of victims of further atrocities if they stand up to their tormentors, and the victims in the rural settings, in particular, are hesitant or outright refuse to register cases of religious persecution because of fear.”

Further expressing solidarity with Muslims as well as Hindu women who have all but been stripped of their agency in wake of the passage of draconian religion related laws, the report says, “The most alarming development has been the expansion and scope of the notorious Freedom of Religion Acts, which are popularly known as the anti-conversion laws, earlier enforced in 7 states, to many more states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Once targeting only Christians, they are now armed also against Muslims in the guise of curbing ‘Love Jihad’. This is an Islamophobic term coined some years ago to demonise marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, 1 particularly those belonging to the Hindu upper castes.”

It adds, “The laws ostensibly punish forced or fraudulent religious conversions. But in practice, they are used to criminalise all conversions, especially in non-urban settings. The laws also take away all agency from Hindu women, rejecting or controlling their free will, and leaving them at the mercy of the patriarchy, further strengthen by political patronage and encouragement. Rulings by High Courts that adult men and women have the freedom to choose their partners have had no impact.”

The report also raises concerns about the openly anti-minority agenda of a majoritarian government saying, “Christian activists fear that the expanding footprint of the anti-conversion laws bring a step closer the BJP’s manifesto promising a nation-wide law to check evangelisation by “missionaries”, a term designed to impute western conspiracy to Christianise Dalits, Tribals and others in rural areas, small towns and urban slums. This, together with the accusation of Islamic population explosion because of the high birth rate, feeds the orchestrated rhetoric that the Hindu population will become a minority which underpins electoral propaganda in India.”

States with worst records of violence against Christians

The report then goes on to list Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as some of the states from where most cases of violence against Christians have been reported. It says, “Uttar Pradesh once again heads the list of regions where the Christian minority has been targeted the most. RLC registered 95 incidents against the Christian community in the state in 2020.”

The report says UP is followed by Chhattisgarh with 55 incidents, most taking place in the tribal region of Bastar, now saturated by volunteers from Hindu right-wing organizations posted to “counter Christian influence”. The report says, “In fact, there is a well-planned political campaign by these groups to ‘Hindutvaize’ tribal society. In Chhattisgarh, as in contiguous tribal regions, these groups face almost no political challenge.” It reminds that, “The Church has been present in the state and in the region for the last 200 years.”

The report further says, “The push of the Hindu Right wing in Jharkhand is ominously similar to that of Chhattisgarh and has resulted in violence and social boycott of the Christians. Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh registered 28 and 25 incidents, respectively.”

Shedding light on how the political party in power determines how well or poorly its minorities are treated, the report says, “In Madhya Pradesh, all the incidents took place from the months of March till December and no incidents were recorded in the first two months. Incidentally, it was in March that the BJP wrested power from the Congress in the state. Majority of the incidents in the state happened in the last four months of the year.”

It goes on to say, “Tamil Nadu in south India had 23 incidents. The state had the second largest number of cases in 2019, registering 60 incidents of some sort of violent action against the Christian community. It is the fifth highest in 2020.”

The entire report may be read here: 



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