Attacks against Christians in India reaches record high in first half of 2017

A protester holds a placard during a rally by hundreds of Christians against recent attacks on churches nationwide, in Mumbai February 9, 2015. | Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The attacks against Christians in India have reached record high in the first half of 2017, with 410 reported incidents, nearly reaching the number of attacks in all of 2016.

Figures compiled by partners of persecution watchdog group Open Doors indicated that there have been 410 reported incidents of harassment, threats and attacks against Indian Christians in the first six months of 2017.

The number of incidents during that period is almost as many as the total for the whole of 2016, when there were 441 reported cases.

According to Open Doors, the number of incidents in January, April, May and June this year were more than double that of 2016, while the incidents in February and March this year were nearly double that of last year.

There were two killings and 85 incidents of violent assault this year, World Watch Monitor reported. Hindu extremists were suspected of being involved in 99 percent of the cases of violent assaults.

Most of the beatings were severe, and in 32 cases, Christians would have died if they had not been provided with timely medical aid.

"When Christians are beaten up by extremists, they are injured mostly on their heads or vital body parts. There was one incident earlier this year when the victim was attacked by a sword to his head," a local partner told Open Doors.

"He was bleeding profusely and was critically injured... Attackers do not care if the person dies. They know they will not be punished because the Government (and hence the judiciary) will take their side. In most cases attackers go unpunished," the partner continued.

In 37 incidents, victims were either socially boycotted, or threatened with it, by Hindu villagers if they do not convert to Hinduism.

Victims in 34 more incidents were forced to leave their homes because of their refusal to leave Christianity.

The Open Doors World Watch List currently ranks India as the 15th most difficult country to live as a Christians. The organization is concerned that it would rank higher in 2018 if present trends continue.

The alarming rise of persecution against Christians in India have been attributed to the process of "Hindunisation," born from "Hindutva" ideology of nationalism, which contends that the nation can be a cohesive and aspiring force only if the tenets of one religion, one culture, and one nation are maintained.

"Hindunisation of India continues to be the main reason for the increase of persecution of Christians in India. If it continues to be forced, violence against Christians and other minorities will increase too," said an Open Doors spokesman.

The organization called on India and the international community to protect millions of Indians who are persecuted for their faith.

Meanwhile, 101 Indian Christian intellectuals have signed an open letter to Catholic Bishops expressing their concern about India's move away from secular democracy to Hindu nationalism, and urging them to help them in protecting constitutional values.

Signatories of the letter include rights activist Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, rights activist and journalist John Dayal, rights activist Father Ajay Kumar Singh, along with several lawyers, priests, nuns and lay people.

"The political process taking shape today is against every fundamental humane and constitutional principle of equality and dignity of every Indian ... Indeed it is evil," the letter stated.