By Abdul Bari Masoud

New Delhi: The  Christian minority in India has witnessed over 486 acts of violence and hatred, making 2021 the “Most Violent Year” in the country’s history. According to the United Christian Forum, the consistent year-on-year growth in violence against the Christian community, which represents more than 2.3 percent of the national population, reached frightening levels in the last quarter of the year (UCF).

According to A C Michael, National Coordinator, UCF India, the Modi government’s pet phrase “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas” has proven to be a hollow, rhetorical ring for India’s Christian minority population.

Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, told Muslim Mirror that the UCF helpline has been recording an increase in incidents of violence against Christians since the BJP won control at the Centre and in various states in 2014.

Authenticated complaints reveal more than one and a half incidents a day, totalling nearly 500 this year as reported with UCF toll-free helpline number 1800-208-4545, he added.

According to the UCF report, the last two months of 2021, November and December, witnessed over one hundred (104) incidents as if to warn Christians from celebrating the birthday of Lord Jesus Christ – Christmas. Month wise number of incidents: January-37, February-20, March-27, April-27, May-15, June-27, July-33, August-50, September-69, October-77, November-56 and December-48.

The anti-social elements appear to be encouraged to do so by the climate of hatred created by certain actions and utterances by certain organisations, as well as the false advertising of fraudulent and allurement means of conversion, including the creation of laws in the name of religious freedom. It is not excessive to say that these instances are well-coordinated and pre-planned attempts by some vested interests to divide the country along religious lines, according to the report.

As per the reports recorded on UCF helpline the incidents of violence against Christians have been increasing sharply since 2014 as if to approve the above claim: 127 incidents in 2014, 142 in 2015, 226 in 2016, 248 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 2020 in 279 (perhaps pandemic gave some relief to Indian Christians), and 486 incidents as on 30th December 2021.

Combined four (4) North Indian states, Uttar Pradesh (102), Chhattisgarh (90), Jharkhand (44) and Madhya Pradesh (38) have recorded 274 incidents of violence against Christians. Signalling that to practice one’s faith, especially Christians, in these states is becoming dangerous; this could also mean that the state authorities are failing to ensure a conducive atmosphere to all its citizens equally, Michael underlined.

There is also one Southern State which too is witnessing a high number of incidents of violence against Christians that is Karnataka with 59 incidents. Other states which are witnessing violence against Christians for their faith are: Bihar (29), Tamil Nadu (20), Odisha (20), Maharashtra (17), Haryana (12), Punjab (10),  Andhra Pradesh (9), Gujarat (7), Uttarakhand (8), Delhi (8), Telangana (3), Himachal Pradesh (3), West Bengal (2), Rajasthan (2), Assam (1), and Jammu & Kashmir (1).

Through its advocacy and interventions, the UCF helpline was able to secure the release of 210 people who had been detained. In addition, 46 places of worship have reopened or are still holding prayer sessions. Regrettably, 34 FIRs could only be filed against the perpetrators of violence, as has been the case in the past.

In almost all incidents reported across India,  Hindutva vigilante mobs composed of religious extremists have been seen to either barge into a prayer gathering or round up individuals that they believe are involved in forcible religious conversions. With impunity, such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions. Often communal sloganeering is witnessed outside police stations, where the police stand as mute spectators.

Sadly, this violence against the Christian community is compounded by the failure of the police to investigate and prosecute mobs and perpetrators, he said and adding that  despite slew of directions to the government from the Supreme Court of India led by then CJI Dipak Misra to stop the horrendous acts of mobocracy.

Anti-conversion laws become a tool to harass the members of the Christian community.

In the nine Indian states where such laws exist, there are 19 cases pending in various courts under the Freedom of Religion Act.

“Though such laws have been in existence in certain jurisdictions since 1967 – over 50 years now – no one, not a single Christian has been prosecuted for pressuring anyone to convert,” according to the UCF coordinator.

Moreover, census after census has shown that Christian population remained 2.3 percent of India’s population of 136.64Crores (2019).