File photo of demonstrators in a peaceful protest rally against religious persecutions against Christians in India File photo of demonstrators in a peaceful protest rally against religious persecutions against Christians in India  (AFP or licensors)

Harassment continues against Indian Christians

A new report of harassment against Christians in Chhattisgarh emerges amid allegations of ‘forcible conversions’

By Zeus Legaspi

Around 50 Christians, including 10 pastors, were attacked in an Indian village in Chhattisgarh State on Sunday following accusations of religious conversion by a radical Hindu party. 

The community had gathered to pray in a private home when an armed mob, reportedly belonging to the militant Hindu nationalist organization, Bajrang Dal, surrounded the home, barged in, and stopped them.

Fearing for their safety, the Christians locked themselves inside the house and called the police.

But when the police arrived, they reportedly arrested the house’s owner, the pastors, and a few other Christians for “disturbing the peace.”

Although they were released in the evening that same day, Ankush Barayiekar, an attendee of the prayer meeting, accused the police of beating up some of the pastors who then required treatment at the local hospital.

The house’s owner, local dentist Dr. Vinay Sahu, said that they did not use microphones and loudspeakers and did not cause noise pollution. “We cannot understand the reason for these attacks,” he added.

In an interview with the UCA News, Barayiekar alleged that Sahu’s Hindu neighbors have objected to the religious meetings in the past and appeared to have requested the help of Hindu radicals to put a stop to them.

The police superintendent in charge of Amleshwar village, where the incident took place, called the attack “a small incident” and said that the problem has already been resolved. 

Not the first time

Sahu told the local media that the Bajrang Dal organized a similar protest in 2021. The Christians were threatened with violence if they were to continue their prayer meetings. 

At the onset of 2023, over a thousand tribal Christians in Narayanpur and Kondagon districts in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, were forced to flee their villages due to threats of violence

In fact, anti-Christian violence has increased dramatically since the ruling political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, started its rule in March 1998

Annually, India’s internal security and its National Minority Commission list more than a hundred religiously motivated acts of violence against Christians, though these numbers are said to be wildly underestimated as some incidents of violence remain unreported.

An “exaggeration”

In March 2022, Dr. Peter Machado, the Archbishop of Bangalore, filed a petition to look at the “sinister phenomenon of violence” and “targeted hate speech” against Christians in some parts of India

Archbishop Machado added that because of the sharp rise in the number of cases of violence against Christians in recent years, Christians in India now live in a “climate of fear.”

But on April 14, 2023, India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta alleged that the Archbishop was only exaggerating the attacks to “keep the pot boiling” and dismissed the claims as “falsehood” due to statistical inconsistencies with case reports of the alleged attack on Christians.

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03 May 2023, 16:32