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Religious persecution on the rise in India

28 February 2020

PA

The Badi Masjid Mosque in New Delhi, India, was damaged during clashes over the new citizenship law, on Wednesday. The act grants Indian citizenship to refugees from Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, and Parsi communities fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, and people who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. Twenty people have been killed and more than 250 people injured in the clashes

The Badi Masjid Mosque in New Delhi, India, was damaged during clashes over the new citizenship law, on Wednesday. The act grants Indian citizenship t...

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.

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