Since early 2000 the Evangelical Fellowship of India, (EFI) has been compiling incidents of violence against members of the minority Christian community. Through this annual compilation, EFI seeks to draw attention to the scale of Christian persecution in India.
In 2010, the incidence of the violence continued unabated, with the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh being the hubs of Christian persecution. EFI recorded 149 incidents of violence in 18 states. However, it is feared that the actual number of incidents was much higher than reported during the year.
The high incidence of anti-Christian violence in 2010 reflects that although in 2007 and 2008 two major incidents of violence occurred in eastern Orissa state’s Kandhamal district and hit headlines in the national as well as international media, little efforts have been taken by authorities in India to tackle the root causes of communal tensions, namely divisive propaganda and activities by powerful right-wing Hindu groups, who do not represent the tolerant Hindu community.
The concentration of persecution in four states – two adjoining states in south India (Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) and two adjoining states in central India (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) – shows that attacks on Christians are not stray incidents, but are part of a systematic campaign by influential organisations capable of flouting law and enjoying impunity. Moreover, it cannot be a coincidence that three of these four most violent (against Christians) states are ruled by a right-wing party. While it cannot be said that the ruling party had a direct role in the attacks on Christians, its complicity cannot be ruled out either.
EFI seeks special prayers for the safety of over 2.7 million Christians who live in the four most vulnerable states. Prayers are also needed for survivors of the 2007 and 2008 violence in Kandhamal, Orissa, most of who have not recovered from the trauma of seeing their loved ones die or losing their homes and right to worship their God with freedom and dignity.
Based on what this report suggests, EFI urges the Indian government to take sufficient measures to protect the Christian and other minorities from organised attacks by a few organisations and outfits that are tarnishing the international image of what is now a globalised and liberalised India. India's image in South Asia, Asia and elsewhere in the world is important keeping in mind her aspirations for a greater leadership role in global affairs.
As EFI staff and researchers monitored violent incidents in 2010, they observed the following trends – which are not new developments though.
Violence against Women
One disturbing trend is the use of violence, especially sexual violence, against women, especially in Karnataka state.
Role of Police
EFI has observed that even filing a first information report (FIR), the first step towards prosecution, is a big hurdle victims of communal violence have faced. Police officials tend to play into the hands of the Hindutva proponents, either by refusing to register FIRs against the accused or by readily registering complaints against Christians on frivolous charges. In most instances, Christian victims beaten up by right-wing extremists complained of biased reactions by police officials. Besides, their appeals for protection in apprehension of attacks are often brushed aside by authorities.
Unless there is pressure from senior police officials or phone calls or visits are made to the concerned police stations or officials, registration of complaints are often refused. Police also take advantage of lack of awareness of criminal procedure among grass-root Christian workers by delaying bail applications and medical examination of injuries, etc.
Many police officials express concern over communal incidents to EFI but seem under pressure from local administrations and political parties to register false cases against Christians. Many police officials tend to play into the hands of the often violent mobs arresting Christians in an attempt to pacify them and thereby maintain "law and order".
The growing impunity with which the attacks are carried out is extremely disturbing for it reflects not only the apathy on the part of the state administration but also the widespread influence of right-wing fundamentalists groups.
Role of the Media
Often hostile, the media, especially the vernacular media, play a critical role in disseminating propaganda against Christian workers. In numerous instances, victims have complained of biased media coverage.
EFI is grateful to the numerous human rights and news agencies working to highlight the alarming incidence of communal violence and would like to make a special mention of the Compass Direct News, Global Christian Indian Council, All India Christian Council and many other independent reporters and activists who have also reported most of the incidents mentioned in this report.
Also, special thanks to Mrs. Mahruaii Sailo for her work in recording and following up each of the cases listed in this report. Thanks are also due to Mrs. Tehmina Arora, EFI Advocacy Director and Mr Deepak Narula for his IT skills and host of EFI correspondents in various states and union territories of India.
Without her diligent efforts, this annual report would not have been possible.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India
Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations