Violent attacks against Christians in India have increased at an alarming rate in 2016, with one attack occurring every 40 hours, according to a new report.
The report, published by All India Christian Council (AICC), indicated that the attacks against Christians were up by 20 percent in 2016. It also noted that physical violence against believers rose by 40 percent and murders have doubled.
"The attacks have become severe and more frequent. Incidents used to be confined to a few states. Now the violence has spread to 23 states," it stated, noting that the sharpest rise was in the northern Uttar Pradesh state and the southern state of Telangana.
The report titled "Atrocities on Christians in India" highlights incidents of church workers being threatened, beaten and killed, as well as churches and Christian schools being vandalized, torched, bombed, and demolished. Other attacks include forced conversions of Christians to Hinduism and the disruption of church services and prayer meetings.
The rise in the attacks coincides with the victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the national election in 2014.
The BJP, which is believed to be the political wing of the chief Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, propagates the Hindutva ideology, which envisions the Hinduism as the dominant culture in India, according to The Christian Post.
"Fanatics have become more common, attacking minorities, boys and girls who are dating and the Dalit community," according to a partner of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.
Five Indian states have implemented anti-conversion laws, and there have been efforts to introduce a nationwide legislation aimed at outlawing evangelism to prevent Hindus from converting.
In Uttar Pradesh, Hindu extremists shaved off the hair, eyebrows, and mustache of a Christian who was accused of converting Hindus, before they paraded him through the town.
In Chhattisgarh, the fanatics doused a pastor and his seven-month pregnant wife with petrol and threatened them with swords, demanding that they chant "Hail Lord Rama."
In the same state, a 14-year-old Christian girl who was on her way to school was gang raped and murdered, but the authorities have not taken any action against the perpetrators. Her family was excommunicated by the villagers for accepting the Christian faith.
A total of 108 incidents has been recorded by the AICC, while the Evangelical Fellowship of India have noted in a separate report that there were more attacks against Christians in India in 2016 than in the two previous years combined.