New Delhi (Feb.17): Tamil Nadu state in southern India recorded the highest incidents of anti-Christian violence during 2017, according to a study by the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
The national alliance of evangelical Christians on February 16 released its annual report on hate crimes against Christians in India for 2017.
The fellowship’s Religious Liberty Commission documented at least 351 cases of violence last year, which it says is not exhaustive. “Most cases go unreported either because the victim is terrified or the police, especially in the northern states, just turn a blind eye and refuse to record the mandatory First Information Report,” the report regrets.
The fellowship has urged the Indian government to uphold the rule of law and to punish those engaged in spreading hatred against religious minorities in the country.
EFI says although violence was “evenly spread across the months of the year,” it peaked during Lent and Christmas that draws larger participation of people. April, the month lent, saw 54 cases and December, the Christmas month, 40.
According to the report, 2017 was among the most traumatic periods for Christians in India since the mass targeted violence in the Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2007 and 2008.
“The confidence of the community in the government needs to be restored,” the report asserts.
Among the Indian states, Tamil Nadu recorded 52 cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh in northern India with 50. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh states in central India recorded 43 and 36 cases. Maharashtra, a western Indian state recorded 38 cases and the National Capital of Delhi, its police controlled by the national government, recorded 6 cases.
Barring Tamil Nadu, the states are either ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party directly or in collation with other parties.
The report regrets that the Hindu radicals in these states “have free hand with the police and administration either looking the other way, or complicit.”
The Tamil Nadu violence has “a disturbing overlay of caste discrimination,” the report says. Most victims are from lower caste groups in villages where the upper caste people oppose prayer houses and the entry of missionaries. “The political instability in the state in the last one year has aggravated the situation,” it says.
Reverend Vijayesh Lal, EFI general and the national director for the Religious Liberty Commission who released the report, regretted the use of law enforcement agencies by “non-state actors” to disrupt Christian worship in churches and homes, especially in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
“It is distressing to see even private worship being attacked by Hindu right-wing activists violating the privacy and sanctity of an individual or a family and trampling upon their constitutional rights,” Reverend lal said.
He also bemoaned that some state governments and their heads used public money to denounce Christianity publically. “This must stop, and the various state governments and the union government, must move beyond mere lip service and uphold fundamental rights especially the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, through concrete action and enforcement of law, without partiality,” Reverend Lal asserted.
The commission also notes the persecution of other religious minorities, discrimination against Dalits, and the plight of women during religious violence.
The EFI also expressed it deep concern over lynching of men, Muslims and Dalits in the guise of punishing them for trafficking in cattle. The Church commission says the issues of cow, caste and attempts to force Hindu religious codes on schools also impact the Christian community. The commission was part of civil society initiatives, fact finding committees, and peace initiatives that probed the anti-minority violence.
The EFI was founded in 1951 as the central network of evangelicals in India. Its members include more than 50 Protestant denominations and related congregations (over 60,000 Churches), over 150 Christian and humanitarian organizations and thousands of individual members.
EFI is a charter member of the World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is also a constituent member of the National United Christian Forum.