ALMOST one third of the 1774 incidents of religious persecution reported in India in the past four years were carried out in 2019, new figures from Persecution Relief show.
The interdenominational charity supports persecuted Christians in the country through funding, prayer, and lobbying. Its annual report, published last week, analyses data from state and district co-ordinators, volunteers, and staff across the 28 States and nine Union Territories of India.
Incidents are reported through a hotline and on social media, investigated, and evidence is found through interviews, photos, and videos.
Reported incidents increased by 60 per cent — from 330 to 527 — between 2016 and 2019. The increase from 2018 was ten per cent. The sharpest rise in reported incidents in this period was in West Bengal: from seven to 26.
The reported figures are likely to be significantly lower than the number of incidents that actually occurred, the report says, because of the fear of reprisals and the perception of police inaction.
Most incidents occurred in Uttar Pradesh (109), for the third year running.
The report states: “Uttar Pradesh is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party. This northern Indian state has emerged as the centre of anti-Christian violence, as politicians use a fundamentalist form of Hinduism to intimidate minority communities. In Uttar Pradesh, the small Christian minority of 0.18 per cent, according to the census of 2011, are the target of increasing violence.”
Threats, harassment, and intimidation were the most common forms of all reported incidents last year (199), followed by church attacks (104), physical violence (85), and arrest (52).
Seventeen incidents involved arson attacks on churches, and four involved murder.
The report states: “The frequency of attacks on Christian gatherings are escalating, especially during Sunday morning worship and prayer meetings. Pastors and members are beaten, sometimes so badly that legs are broken, churches are vandalised. . . . Hundreds of Christians are being imprisoned on false charges of converting Hindus to Christianity.”
Out of the 527 incidents reported to Persecution Relief in 2019, 542 were reported by the international media, it states.