These laws making it exceedingly tough for underprivileged groups such as Dalits and Adivasis to convert to Christianity, all the while allowing for ghar vapsi, or conversion to Hinduism, through means that are not always peaceful. In many instances of attacks against Christians in Chhattisgarh, the police and administration appear to have taken no action against the perpetrators. With Christians receiving no support from the police, locals who were antagonistic to them even led social boycotts against members of the community and demolished their houses and churches.
In April 2020, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal government commission, recommended the imposition of sanctions on India after monitoring growing number of violations of religious freedom under the Modi government. The USCIRF panel stated in its annual report that India should be designated as a Country of Particular Concern “for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.” Countries of Particular Concern, or CPCs, are ones where the respective governments “perpetrate or tolerate the worst violations of religious freedom globally.”
The United States’ current CPC list includes Burma, China, Iran and North Korea. The report takes special note of the rising number of attacks against Christians in India. “Violence against Christians also increased, with at least 328 violent incidents, often under accusations of forced conversions,” the report states. It further noted that government officials and agencies which are responsible for such violations should be barred from entering the United States.
On 29 April, Anurag Shrivastava, the spokesperson for the Indian foreign ministry, said the USCIRF report was “biased” and a “new level of misrepresentation.” Shrivastava, however, did not contest the statistics presented in the USCIRF report. Commenting on the agency, he said, “We regard it as an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly.”
Shibu Thomas, the founder of Persecution Relief, told me that Uttar Pradesh has seen the highest number of instances of persecution of Christians between 2017 and 2019. “I think the administration and the religious fanatics are hand in hand. The police, especially, is supporting the fanatics rather than protecting Christians, because the percentage of Christians is very low in Uttar Pradesh,” he said. He added that over a hundred churches have been forcefully shut down under the chief minister Adityanath’s administration. According to Thomas, India’s inclusion by the USCIRF among the top ten states for its record of religious intolerance is also matter of concern given the potential consequence of financial sanctions.
The first quarterly report released by Persecution Relief for this year records 187 incidents of harassment, intimidation and violence against Christians, noting that the attacks have continued “in spite of the curb on religious gatherings owing to the nationwide lockdown due to the Corona Virus outbreak.”
To be Continued…