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351 incidents of anti-Christian violence in India, 2017 was "most traumatic" after 2007-08 Kamdhamal pogrom

By Our Representative
In a strong critique of the Narendra Modi government, which is likely to have a major impact on the so-called Christian world, India's national alliance of evangelical Christians has qualified the year 2017 "one of the most traumatic for the Christian community in India since the mass targeted violence of the Kandhamal pogrom in 2007 and 2008" in Odisha.
A 58-page report, prepared by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFIRLC), which has documented 351 cases of violence in 2017, regrets, however, it is "by no means an exhaustive compilation as it is based on voluntary reporting and civil society investigations, adding, "Most cases go unreported either because the victim is terrified or the police, especially in the northern states, just turn a blind eye and refuse to record the mandatory First Information Report."
EFIRLC says, as part of the preparations for the 2019 elections, "foot soldiers of the Bharatiya Janata Party, collectively called the Sangh Parivar, have shifted into high gear in hate campaigns and targeted violence against individuals and groups, mainly religious minorities and Dalits."
"They have been assisted with government announcing strict laws against cow slaughter and even a carrying of beef, and the formation of quasi-official vigilante squads to monitor beef and cow transport and marriages between Hindu girls and men from other religions", the report adds.
Quoting Indian government figures, EFIRLC says, “communal violence”, the term used to define clashes between religious groups, increased 28% over three years to 2017, adding, "Issues of cow, caste and attempts to force Hindu religious codes on schools also impact the Christian community".
EFIRLC's analysis of the 2017 data shows Tamil Nadu has emerged as "the most hostile state where Christian are concerned, with 52 cases. Uttar Pradesh with 50, is a close second, and Chhattisgarh, 43, Madhya Pradesh, 36, Maharashtra, 38, are bunched together. The National Capital of Delhi, its police controlled by the national government, recorded 6 cases."
"Barring Tamil Nadu, the other states are either ruled by the BJP directly or in collation with other parties, and the Sangh cadres have free hand with the police and administration either looking the other way, or complicit", the report says, adding, *The Tamil Nadu violence has a disturbing overlay of caste discrimination, and the victims largely come from the so called lower castes in villages where the dominant groups object to prayer houses and even the entry of missionaries."
Particularly taking note of the Satna incident in Madhya Pradesh, where carol singers were arrested, after a man accused them of trying to convert him to Christianity, EFIRLC says, "The state is one of six others with strict anti-conversion laws in India", adding, one of those arrested, a professor at a Catholic theological college, and others had to spend several days in jail before they were let out on bail.
"In what seems to be a misuse of the provisions of the Freedom of Religion Act in Madhya Pradesh, at least three incidents (during the months of May, June and October) were reported from Madhya Pradesh where Christian children travelling for church related functions and their leaders were taken into custody on alleged charges of kidnapping and conversion", the report says.
Demanding the enact a comprehensive national legislation against targeted and communal violence, the report wants the government to enforce rule of law and arrest members of groups promoting sectarian hate and violence and others who attack persons on mere suspicion of consumption / storage of beef or on alleged charges of forced or fraudulent conversions, and to take stringent action against them as per law of the land.
At the same time, it wants the state governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand to repeal their anti-conversion laws known as Freedom of Religion Acts as well as abandon efforts towards a national anti-conversion law which would only curb the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief, particularly of religious minorities in India.

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