India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, saw a “record level” of anti-Christian violence last month, according to a survey by Violence Monitor, a monthly magazine that reports incidents of violence against minorities, as reported by AsiaNews.
The magazine revealed that out of 25 cases of religious intolerance reported in the state in September, 20 took place in Jaunpur, the constituency of the prime minister, Narendra Modi. In most of those cases, Christian clergymen were accused of forced conversions. The city’s chief minister is known for his negative views about religious minorities, including Christians, according to Asia News.
The survey said that following the beating of a Christian leader on 13 September and threats of “severe consequences” if he continued to preach, Christians in Jaunpur are afraid of organising prayer meetings even in their homes.
Since January, 59 incidents of violence have been reported in Uttar Pradesh and 190 across the country, including harassment of women and children, the survey revealed.
“We are a minority in the Indian population, but it seems that our presence in this state is considered a threat to the hidden agenda of extremist groups,” a Catholic priest from Uttar Pradesh, Fr. Manoj Nayak, told Catholic news agency Fides.
Police attacks in Tamil Nadu
Meanwhile, October has been a difficult month for Christians in Tamil Nadu state, with one incident involving the disruption of a “house church” service by police officers on 6 October, as reported by Morning Star News.
According to local sources, the officers, including a female police inspector, hit the attendees at the service in the town of Aralvaimozhi.
“Inspector Jeyalakshmi and five policemen rushed inside the ‘house church’ and started abusing me in filthy language,” Pastor Yesudas told Morning Star News.
He also said that that the officers punched them, while the female inspector took him by the neck and struck him in his stomach. None of the officers have been held accountable for their actions.
In the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, police disrupted a Sunday service on 7 October, saying they had received complaints about the sound of singing and praying, according to Morning Star News. The Christians were holding the service in a temporary shack as the church building was under construction. Pastor John Immanuel, who was called to the police station, told the news agency that they are trying to complete the construction quickly and move inside for prayer.
In another incident in Sarvanampatty on 2 October, a landlord who had rented his property out to a congregation to hold a worship service received a call from the police questioning why he had done so. A police officer had earlier entered the property, interrupting an event and taking photographs of the members of the congregation.
Earlier, on 30 September, in neighbouring Puducherry state, a mob attacked the house of Pastor Vincent Paul and assaulted his family and a few people who had joined them for a prayer service. The perpetrators were identified as family members of a local Hindu leader called Sanil Kumar, as reported by Morning Star News.
“Kumar’s mother, Rani, bit my hand, and his followers broke the chairs and threw away the Bibles. His wife, Dhanam, attacked my wife and children while the goons continued beating our guests and me,” Pastor Paul told the news agency.
The local police refused to file the pastor’s complaint and advised him “not to mess with Kumar and let it go”. Kumar himself called the pastor with threats and said that he would not allow any Christian activity in the area, according to Pastor Paul, who said his family are now afraid to leave the house.
Cross removed in Jharkhand
In the village of Garnatanga, near Ranchi, a cross was removed from a Protestant church building by the pro-Hindu Sarna tribal community on 20 October, AsiaNews reported yesterday.
The members of the community have complained about Christian missionaries engaging in forced conversions, the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, Sajan K. George, told the news agency. The Christians were also accused of “encroaching” on the tribal land and “squandering their resources”.
The church, which has already been renamed and turned into a community hall for the tribal people, stands on land the tribe claims it owns. The dispute is still ongoing.
Local Christian leaders claim the removal of the cross was instigated by the ruling BJP and other Hindu groups that see “a danger in tribal people getting educated and becoming assertive for their rights”, Catholic Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega told the Catholic news agency UCAN.
“That’s why they target Christians and their institutions,” he said.
Almost all of the 1 million Christians in Jharkhand are tribal people, and dividing the tribes is part of the BJP’s plan ahead of the elections as it wants to avoid the tribes “standing together” against the government, according to UCAN.
Churches at risk of destruction in Manipur
Thousands of Christians took to the streets of the state’s capital, Imphal, on 25 October, to protest against the decision of the local government, led by a prominent BJP member, not to register Christian religious buildings built on public land, AsiaNews reported.
Five or six churches are among 188 buildings of other religions that are at risk of being destroyed. The government claims they violate the land legislation as they do not possess “regular documents”.
“At least tell us how to regularise our documents,” a local Catholic source said in his appeal, telling AsiaNews that the places of worship were built with valid permits. He said church leaders are now negotiating with the authorities.
According to a census on religion held in 2011, there are nearly as many Christians as Hindus in Manipur – a trend common across the north-eastern states.