Persecution Watch Annual Report 2014
The Christian community in India is concerned at the intensity of the targeted and communal violence directed against it almost on a pan India basis. Violence against Christians picked up in independent India in the early 1990s reaching its peak in 2008 - 2009 with more than 1000 incidents of violence and hate crimes reported against the Christian community. This continues today as vicious hate campaign, physical violence, police complicity, and State impunity contribute to the persecution of the Christian community in many states of India.
Human Rights and Civil Society groups have documented the death of at least two persons in 2014, killed for their Christian faith. The Persecution data lists partially 147 cases. The two cases of death in communal anti Christian violence were reported from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
An analysis of the data shows Chhattisgarh topping the list with 28 incidents of crime, followed closely by neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana, a newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with 15 incidents. Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of the National Democratic alliance headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, came into power on 26 May, 2014.
The violence peaked between August and October with 56 cases, before zooming up to 25 cases during the Christmas season. The violence has continued well into the New Year 2015, with more Catholic churches in the capital city of Delhi targeted, as incidents continue in other states.
Much of the violence, 54 percent, is of threats, intimidation, coercion, often with the police looking on. Physical violence constituted a quarter of all cases, 24 per cent, and violence against Christian women, a trend that is increasingly being seen since the carnage in Kandhamal, Odisha, in 2007 and 2008, was 11 per cent. Breaking of statues and the Cross, and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 per cent of the cases, but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions. A disturbing trend was violence against Christians in West Bengal, where though one case was formally reported; there have been increasing incidents of hate speech and intimidation..
Police inaction and its failure to arrest the guilty in most cases, its propensity to try to minimise the crime, and in rural areas especially, its open partisanship has almost become the norm. Police ineptitude in forensic investigations has been seen even in New Delhi where four of the five cases in the months of December 2014 and January 2015 have seen no progress in the investigations. In the one case where there were arrests, the Church and the community have cast doubts on the police version of the motives of the suspects whose images were recorded in the Close Circuit TV cameras installed in the church.
The President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, noted the rise of communalism and the targeting of religious minorities in his address to the Nation on 25th January 2015, the eve of Republic Day. President Mukherjee said "In an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence ...We have always reposed our trust in faith -equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic. The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people's hearts. The Indian Constitution is the holy book of democracy. It is a lodestar for the socio - economic transformation of an India whose civilisation has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. These values, however, need to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance."
Mr. Mukherjee touched a point that has worried many among even those who voted for Mr. Modi hoping he would bring about a change from the corruption and economic coma in which the country had found itself in the last few years. The Union and State governments have been dismissive of the Christian complaints of targeted violence and persecution, both by political non-State actors and other elements.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
1. Enact a comprehensive hate crimes legislation to safeguard the rights of religious minorities.
2. The Ministry of Home Affairs should provide trainings on human rights and religious freedom standards and practices to the state and central police and judiciary;
3. Although maintenance of public order is a state responsibility, the central government should issue an advisory to the state governments to repeal the anti-conversion laws;
4. The government should ensure an active Commission for Human Rights and Commission for Minorities is operational in every state, and that members of each commission are appointed by transparent and non-partisan procedures;
5. Prevent and pursue through the judicial process, all violent acts against religious and tribal minorities and Dalits.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell,
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India
Rev. Vijayesh Lal,
Executive Director (Designate),
Evangelical Fellowship of India,
New Delhi, India.
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