01 August 2020, The Tablet

Persecution of Christians continues to rise in India

According to one charity, between 2016 and the present, there have been 2,067 crimes inspired by religious intolerance against Christians in India

Persecution of Christians continues to rise in India

BJP supporters outside their local party office in Kolkata, India on June 9, 2020
Hindustan Times/SIPA USA/PA Images

Hate crimes against Christians in India, including instances of murder, rape, and arson, have risen by 40 per cent in the first half of 2020, according to a new report. The report, by campaigning group, Persecution Relief, noted that the “disconcerting” rise has taken place in spite of a three-month national lockdown. 

India, due to become the world’s most populous country in the recent future, has seen a rise in the persecution of Christians over the past decade. Watchdog Open Doors has ranked the subcontinent number 10 on their list of persecution hotspots, with several charities identifying state cooperation with extremists as a key problem. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, won the general election in 2014, Christian commentators have claimed the government, particularly at a local level, has been unwilling to clamp down on extremist Hindus.  According to Persecution Relief, between January 2016 and June 2020, there have been 2,067 crimes inspired by religious intolerance against Christians in India. In April, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom requested that the U.S. State Department name India as a “country of particular concern” because of attacks on religious minorities. 

The worst manifestation of the rise in persecution has been a string of murders of Christians, with four deaths attributed to anti-christian extremists in the past few months. On 4 June, according to local media, a 14-year-old boy, Sombura Madkami, was kidnapped and murdered by “fanatics”. On June 7, Kande Mudu, a 27-year-old Christian, was murdered in Jharkhand in north-eastern India, and on July 10, Munsi Thado, age 35, was murdered in Maharashtra, in the west of the country. On 19 July, Suman Munda, a 25-year-old woman, previously harassed for her Christian faith, was discovered dead near her home by relatives.  The series of murders has raised fears amongst local Christians that persecution, usually experienced through boycotts, threats, and property destruction, is intensifying in India.

These fears are heightened by the inaction over and sometimes cooperation with, persecution on the part of state officials. On July 9, six Christian families in Jharkhand, under pressure from their neighbours to leave their largely Hindu village, reported the threats to their local police station. Rather than filing a report, the police offered the Christians an ultimatum: to convert to Hinduism or leave their village. Voice of the Martyrs, the charity that reported these events, said in a statement that - in their view - such actions had been enabled by the rhetoric of BJP authorities both locally and nationally.

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