The Christians in India faced 486 incidents of violence and harassment during 2021 which has been declared the “most violent year” for the community.
The United Christian Forum (UCF), a rights body that maintains a database of incidents of violence and intimidation in India, said 2021 saw an increase of 74% from 2020, when 279 such cases were reported on the UFC’s helpline.
The Forum said more than 104 violent incidents against Christians were recorded in the last two months of the year.
The report says Uttar Pradesh saw the most hate crimes against the minority group with 102 instances, followed by Chhattisgarh with 90. Four states including Jharkhand (44) and Madhya Pradesh (38) recorded 274 incidents of violence making 56% of the total incidents against Christians.
In all the cases, vigilante mobs of religious extremists were observed barging into prayer gatherings or rounding up individuals.
“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,” the report said.
It said the marginalised Dalits have converted to Christianity as well as Islam and Buddhism in the past to escape a rigorous Hindu caste hierarchy.
The Hindu nationalist outfits linked to Modi’s BJP have long targeted Christian missionaries and activists for allegedly trying to convert Dalits and impoverished Hindus to Christianity.
Nine out of 29 Indian states have formulated anti-conversion laws, which are often used to target religious minorities.
Since 2017, five states run by the BJP have approved new anti-conversion laws or modified existing legislation. The updated laws impose harsher penalties and establish additional reasons for banning conversions.
The state assembly in BJP-ruled Karnataka passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021.
The anti-conversion law has been dubbed draconian, anti-poor and blatantly unconstitutional by opposition parties and critics.