Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence day address has done little to reassure the country’s Catholic population, as numbers of targeted attacks against Christians continues to rise.
Addressing the nation from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on 15 August, Modi declared that India is "the land of Gandhi and Buddha , we have to move forward taking everyone along…We have to successfully carry it forward and that is why in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed."
Yet Christians have said the Prime Minister failed to denounce the targeted sectarian violence that minority Christians and Muslims have been subjected to under under Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, known for espousing a Hindu nationalist agenda.
John Dayal, one of the leading Catholic activists in the country, noted that Modi's address “left most people disappointed”.
"His critics have come away convinced that he has no plan, or no inclination, to really stop and punish those responsible for the lynchings that have followed the ban on beef and cattle trade, on targeted violence against Muslims and Christians, and those who are eroding what we call the secular fabric of India," Dayal said.
"Because of the delay in outright condemning violence by the far right fringe, not many would believe it even if the PM Modi is serious in the Independence Day message," said Joseph Dias, founder of Mumbai-based outspoken group, Catholic Secular Forum (CSF).
The CSF in its 2016 report on attacks on Christians by Hindu fundamentalist groups pointed out that 2015 - Modi assumed office in 2014 - saw an unprecedented spike in "intolerance" against the community, citing that, on an average, India saw one such incident of hate crime against Christians every day.
"Minorities would need to see action against the communal perpetrators, to have faith in the government's sincerity," Dias told the Tablet on 17 August.
Addressing a Catholic gathering of over 1,000, including a dozen bishops and hundreds of priests, in February 2015 in New Delhi, Modi declared:
“We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”
“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” continued Modi.
But recent reports says incidents of anti-Christians violence have worsened in 2017.
In the first six months of 2017, Indian Christians were harassed, threatened or attacked for their faith in 410 reported incidents, almost as many as the total for the whole of 2016 (441), according to a report by Open Doors, an international persecution monitoring network.
PICTURE: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks from the Red Fort on Independence Day in New Delhi, India, 15 August