Christian Community Vulnerable to Violence in India
"The Christian community in India continue to suffer for the sake of their service and witness to Jesus Christ. With 140 major incidents of violence against the community in 2011, the crucial issues of the rights of minorities, and freedom faith are involved. The Church will continue to serve the nation and pray for those who are persecuting." - Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary, EFI.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India is deeply concerned at the continued hostility against the Christian minority community in the country. EFI recorded 140 instances of violence coupled with several instances of false accusations against the community. (See Chart Below)
Frequency and Geographical location of Incidents
The southern state of Karnataka recorded the most number of attacks against the community with 49 instances of violence and hostility. Another southern state of Andhra Pradesh witnessed 17 instances of violent attacks and discrimination against Christian groups, while the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh saw fourteen instances of violence. The state of Orissa recorded eleven incidents followed by the state of Kerala which recorded ten incidents of violence against the Christians. The months of April and August were the most violent for Christians with 17 incidents being recorded in those months.
Nature of Attacks
In an outrageous attack against Christians in Jharkhand, the local villagers in the Palamu and Garwah district left several Christians, including one woman severely injured . One woman was abducted for a month by the attackers before she was finally released by the order of the local court. The police failed to arrest even a single person in connection with the incidents, inspite of repeated appeals from both local and national human rights agencies and the appeals from the victims, themselves.
Far from being an isolated incident, this is the norm, with several Christians being coerced by government agencies into accepting a compromise with the attackers and even submitting to demands such as leaving the village or area , or would not conduct worship services in their homes or paying a fine for practise their faith .
In most of the instances, after the preliminary disruption of church or worship services, Christians including women were abused and physically assaulted. Later the Christians were arrested on the charges of "forcible conversions".
The blatant disregard for the law by alleged Hindutva proponents, coupled with the inaction and often bias of the police in favour of the attackers, has left the community vulnerable and helpless in the onslaught of violence.
In a surprising development the Sharia courts in Srinagar which does not have jurisdiction over Christian minority community has falsely accused local pastor of forceful conversions and issued statement which may encourage extremist elements to indulge in violence in the region which so urgently needs an environment of peace for its development and security.
• EFI recommends that the State Governments, especially the government of Karnataka, take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the Christian minority community within the state.
• EFI recommends the Government of Karnataka withdraw false and malicious cases registered against Christians in the state and direct the police to investigate the motive and locus of the complainant before registering any complaint against Sections 153, 295 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code.
• EFI recommends the Central Government enact the Prevention of Communal Violence Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, after due consideration to the concerns raised by civil society.
• EFI recommends the Jammu and Kashmir Government, religious leaders and civil society in the Kashmir valley to make sure that the rights of minorities are respected, their welfare assured, and communal harmony strengthened.