Women, rural pastors and home churches were the main targets of mobs which were often led by members of the Sangh Parivar. Police impunity resulted in most culprits going unpunished, they claimed.
General Secretary the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell and Religious Liberty Commission Secretary Rev. Vijayesh Lal held a presss conference today in Delhi to release the 2013 partial list of violence meted out to the minority Christian community across the country.
As many as 154 incidents of anti-Christian violence were reported in the year, with Andhra Pradesh registering 42 cases, Chhattisgarh 28 and Karnataka 27. Karnataka had been wrecked by extreme violence during August and September 2008 in the wake of the pogrom against Christians in the Kandhamal district of Orissa.
This list does not include large numbers of cases reported from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, which could not be immediately verified as being motivated by religious prejudice. These include at least three cases of murder, including one of a child of a pastor in Rajasthan.
The Evangelical Fellowship also received a very large number of complaints of structural and institutional violence from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat. Most of these pertain to Tribals being deprived of their land f they convert to Christianity. In Gujarat, the computerized registration systems have been so engineered that Tribals have mandatorily to fill their religion as Hindu.
This is in violation of the Constitutional provisions for Scheduled Tribes. The matter is to be taken to the High courts of the respective states. The most shocking aspect of the anti-Christian violence is the targeting of women. This emerging pattern of violence is seen with great concern by the Christian leadership. Christian groups now plan to bring this issue to the notice of national and state political leaders soon.
In one horrendous case on 12th September 2013, a Christian woman, Sanamma, a helper in Anganwadi School was caught by a mob of 40 people when she was inviting children to join the school after the summer break. The mob accused her of forceful conversion, beat her up severely and took her to a temple where they poured water on her as a form of religious cleansing and thereafter applied "kumkum" on her forehead, a sign of Hindu married woman. Local Christians rescued her later and took her to a hospital for treatment.
In another shocking case in Taragoan, Lohandiguda, Hindutva extremist activists forcefully took a Christian widow to the temple and tried to sacrifice her to the idols. Her daughter and relatives rescued the widow.
The Evangelical Fellowship, in association with other Church groups, has consistently demanded that the Central government enact suitable legislation to end communal and targeted violence. We had hoped that Parliament would pass the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in the last session. It did not happen. We hope that the government formed after the 2014 General elections will take it up in earnest.