Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Rising intolerance

A report by the United Christian Forum (UCF) says that in the first 45 days of the new year till February 14, 2022 itself, 53 incidents were reported by its helpline number, according to media. In a study reported by the United Christian Forum (UCF), an ecumenical group located in New Delhi that tracks violence against Christians, at least 127 incidences of violence against Christians were documented in the first 103 days of 2022 in India. As per statistics, it indicates that in 2022 there were more than one incident each day so far. While not attempting to speculate on the reasons behind, yet the figures also prove that the number of attacks on the minority Christian community in India is a cause for concern. In 2022, the highest number of attacks against Christians occurred in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh (12), Tamil Nadu (10), Madhya Pradesh (8) and Uttar Pradesh (7). Of all northern states, Punjab has fewest number of anti-Christian attacks. However there appears to be some people fomenting trouble in the otherwise communally peaceful state. Earlier, on July 19, a pastor in Ludhiana was attacked in his car. The FIR registered at a local police station booked the accused for attempt to murder and rioting while armed with deadly weapon. On August 29, there were at least two incidents of violence and intimidation reported in Punjab. In Amritsar district, Nihangs, blue-clad members of a Sikh order of warriors, disrupted a Christian prayer meeting, alleging forced conversion. The Akal Takht – the highest centre of authority in Sikhism – later demanded that the first information report on the incident be withdrawn and the arrested Nihangs be released. In Ludhiana, a pastor was forced to bow to a Hindu idol. On August 31, a group of people in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district allegedly forcefully entered a local church last night and vandalised a statue of Jesus and Mary. They also set fire to the pastor’s car. Visuals from the spot show the car engulfed in flames and a broken statue inside the church. In many states, such as Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, stringent anti-conversion laws have been used to target Christian communities. Despite India being a secular democratic country where fundamental rights of every citizen is guaranteed under Article 25-28, communal violence continue unabated. In particular, Christians have been targeted solely on the allegation of forced conversions to justify such incidents, although the census data indicates no massive conversions have happened over the years and the population of the 2.3 % Christians in India has not seen any significant rise which proves that mass conversions has been a bogey. Punjab does not have such a law, although there is growing pressure from sections of the Sikh clergy and from Hindutva groups for one. Sikhs have a reputation of being most tolerant and respectful to all other religious communities. The recent attacks on Christians in Punjab are the handiworks of certain elements hell bent on creating disharmony for vested interests. It is also encouraging that all political parties in Punjab, the ruling AAP, opposition Congress, BJP and Akali Dal have condemned the incidents and demanded strict action. As for forced or fraudulent conversion, an impartial probe should be conducted to ascertain facts in the interest of justice.