INDIA – Christian Persecution Fact Sheet Compiled by STPC

Open Doors USA World Watch List 2020
Rank:  No. 10, 2020 World Watch List of Countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian

Score: 83/100
Region: Asia
Persecution Type: Religious nationalism
Persecution level: Extreme
Population: 1,368,738,000
Christians: 66,194,000
Main Religion: Hinduism
Government: Federal republic
Leader: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Hindu nationalism and attacks with impunity
Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences. The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith—including Christianity—is viewed as non-Indian. Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities.

How Christians are suffering
Christians in India face horrific levels of violence from extremists—thousands of attacks take place every year. Several states in India have adopted anti-conversion laws, and the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it clear that it wants to impose these laws nationwide. Such laws are often used as an excuse to disrupt church services and harass Christians, and make it incredibly difficult for Christians to share their faith with others.
Converts to Christianity from a Hindu background are especially vulnerable to persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism, especially through campaigns known as Ghar Wapsi (“home-coming”). They are often physically assaulted and sometimes killed.Examples
On January 9, 2019, hardline Hindus tore down a church building in Narnepadu village, Muppalla Mandal, Guntur District, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, because it was built on the west side of a village, which they claimed violated Hindu principles of placement and positioning. (Source: Morning Star News)
On April 10, 2019, a Christian tribal man was attacked with swords, sickles and iron sticks in the Indian state of Jharkhand. He was killed by a crowd of Hindu radical “cow protectors” on suspicion of having slaughtered an ox, considered sacred by Hindus. Three other tribal Christians were injured in the attack. (Source: AsiaNews)
On October 2, 2019 a Christian birthday celebration was attacked by Hindu radicals in Vasalamarry village, located 40 miles outside of Hyderabad in India’s Telangana state. According to local reports, the mob of 30 radical nationalists stormed into the Christian home where guests had gathered for the birthday celebrations. The radicals vandalized decorations, terrified the guests and destroyed several household items owned by the Christian family. (Source: International Christian Concern)
India (No. 10), the government plans to introduce a national facial recognition system. There were at least 447 verified incidents of violence and hate crimes against Christians in India in the 2020 World Watch List reporting period. There is fear that more tracking could increase these attacks.
“Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, attacks have increased, and Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences. As a result, Christians have been targeted by Hindu nationalist extremists more and more each year,” Open Doors said in ranking India 10th on its 2019 persecution list. “The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is considered non-Indian. Additionally, in some regions of the country, converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination and violence.”

Aid to the Church in Need, “Persecuted and Forgotten” 2019 Report

Christians in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India have suffered increased persecution since the BJP-led government revoked a 1949 law that allowed Jammu and Kashmir to form its own constitution, reported Morning Star and religious persecution watchdog groups including Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs.
New security measures issued as recently as Nov. 6 make it “nearly impossible” for Christian congregations to meet, Morning Star reported. Gatherings of four or more people are now illegal in Jammu and Kashmir. The new restrictions have further emboldened Hindutva extremists in personal attacks on Christians comprising only about one-quarter of a percent of the 12.5 million people in the former state.
Nationwide, Christians were attacked in at least 24 of India’s 29 states in a two-year period ending in July, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported Nov. 14 in its latest report, “Persecuted and Forgotten?” which studied Christian persecution in India and 11 other countries. Indian Christians were beaten, murdered and raped, with ACN calculating at least 117 incidents in the first quarter of 2019, 477 in 2018 and 440 in 2017.
“More than 100 churches closed in 2018, because of extremist attacks or intervention by authorities,” ACN said in its report. “Not only has communal violence remained high, but the failure of authorities to address attacks on religious minorities has engendered a climate of impunity.”
As recently as May, the government demolished a church-run school and hostel in Odisha State in eastern India, displacing at least 100 students who lived in the school hostel, ACN reported. An extremist group complained to the government that the Christian school was evangelizing the students, which the headmaster denied.


Role of Hindutva/Hindu Extremist Groups

Various nationalist groups in India have expanded the ideology of Hindutva, or “Hinduness,” which has three pillars—common nation, race, and culture—and forms the basis of an oftentimes exclusionary national narrative with a singular focus on the rights of Hindus. The views espoused by individuals belonging to these groups and the activities they undertake vary widely. Nevertheless, both moderate and extreme forces within the Hindutva movement point to the rise in the Muslim population from constituting 10 percent of the national population in 1951 to 14 percent in 2011, which in their view necessitates “mitigation” against the growing Muslim community.

While some Hindutva groups want greater influence of Hindu principles in the state’s decision-making process, more extreme elements have stated they would like to see all non-Hindus expelled, killed, or converted to Hinduism. Some members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have affiliations with Hindu extremist groups and have used discriminatory language about religious minorities. For example, in 2018, state-level BJP member T. Raja Singh was charged by the police for hate speech after stating that “every Hindu should carry weapons like lathis [clubs] and attack other communities’ members if they said anything wrong.”

The influence of Hindutva groups goes beyond politics and government. For example, Hindutva groups have expanded the scope and size of religious schools—which often teach intolerant religious ideology in nongovernmental private educational systems—to nearly four million students, and have tried to distribute books promoting religious intolerance in public schools. Some groups have student youth wings, such as the RSS’s Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which have used intimidation and violence in colleges to silence their secular or non-Hindu classmates and shut down events that challenge their viewpoints.
In general, both the federal and state governments have done little to condemn the use of inflammatory language, even if it incites violence.

[The USCIRF report goes on to detail issues with anti-conversion laws used to target and imprison Christian pastors; An increase in hate speech against Christians; Impunity for mob violence against Christians; and restrictions against NGO registrations.]
[ADDED: Hindutvism Extremism: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat]

ADF International Report: Anti-Conversion Laws and International Response, 2018

In the News:

Why Narendra Modi Was Banned From the U.S.
Narendra Modi is the only person ever denied a U.S. visa based on a little-known law on religious freedom
Wall Street Journal | May 2, 2014

American Pastor Arrested and Detained in India
Pastor Targeted After Telling Customs Officials He Is a Christian

International Christian Concern | Oct. 29, 2019

American Pastor Held 3 Months in India Could Finally Have His Day in Court

CBN News | Jan. 9, 2020

Modi Is a Liar’: Tarun Gogoi Says BJP Govt Sanctioned Rs 46 Crore For Detention Camp

The Wire | Dec. 29, 2019

8 Christians arrested in Hindu mob’s brutal crackdown on house churches: report
Christian Post | Sept. 28, 2019

Over 1,000 incidents of Christian persecution in India reported since 2014; 219 in 2019
Christian Post | Sept. 27, 2019

India: Hindu extremists rape 4-year-old daughter of pastor who refused to stop sharing the Gospel

Christian Post | Sept. 11, 2019

Hindu radicals livestream attack on Christians to ‘make area free of Christianity’
Christian Post | Sept. 30, 2019

Persecution of Christians in India
BBC Interview | Feb. 3, 2019