Attacks against Christian communities in India have surged over the past three years, especially after the right-wing governing body, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), swept to power in May 2014.
Release International, the advocacy body which supports persecuted Christians globally, has warned that violent Hindu nationalism has been gaining ground, causing a sharp spike upwards in attacks against other marginalised religions, particularly Christianity.
A report by the All India Christian Council recorded that violence against Christians rose by 40 per cent last year, while murders doubled. The sharpest rises have been recorded in Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.
The document, Atrocities on Christians in India, reported, ‘Attacks have become severe and more frequent. Incidents used to be confined to a few states. Now the violence has spread to 23 states’.
Release partners working in India have also described a further upswing in politically motivated attacks since the March 2017 elections, which also saw mass support for Hindu nationalists.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, has painted a grim picture of the situation. He said, ‘In states across India, militants have threatened and killed church workers. Extremists have tried to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. And they have bombed, torched, vandalised and demolished churches’.
According to a Release partner who has to remain anonymous, ‘Fanatics have become more common, attacking minorities, boys and girls who are dating, and the Dalit community’. The Dalits are the underclass who fall outside the Indian caste system and are assigned the most menial jobs in society. Many are converting to Christianity.
Mr Robinson added: ‘Militants beat one evangelist with chains, stripped him and forced him to drink urine. They desecrated a Christian cemetery, dug up skeletons and scattered them across the graveyard. This rising intolerance is linked to extreme nationalism, which argues that to be Indian is to be Hindu — and tries to impose that by force. The authorities must act immediately to prevent the violence’.
The All India Christian Council recorded 108 incidents in the first six months alone of 2016. And a separate report by the Evangelical Fellowship of India logged more attacks against Christians in India in 2016 than in the two previous years put together.