Politics Likely to Perpetuate Wave of Persecution in India’s Most Populous State
By ICC’s India Correspondent
08/13/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – A new wave of persecution has hit India’s most populous state, Utter Pradesh, in recent weeks. The troubling spike in attacks began in late June, when two Muslim men were arrested on charges of forcefully converting 1,000 Hindus to the Islamic faith. Following this event, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians made provocative statements seemingly condoning the persecution of religious minorities.
For example, BJP politician, and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, ordered that action be taken against the Muslim men under the state’s Gangster Act and National Security Act. In addition, BJP Member of Parliament Ravi Kishan responded to the arrests by calling religious conversions a “well-planned conspiracy and heinous crime,” that “should be treated no less than terrorism.”
Immediately following these statements, International Christian Concern (ICC) documented five incidents of religiously motivated violence against Christians in Utter Pradesh. Within these incidents, eight Christians were arrested after being brutally beaten by radical Hindu nationalists.
“The right-wing activists are up in action because the elections in the state are around the corner,” a Christian leader from Uttar Pradesh, who requested anonymity, told ICC. “This has been the pattern for the right-wing political parties as a winning strategy.”
On June 28, Pastor Shiva Kumar and three other Christians were arrested while conducting a house dedication ceremony in Dhawrara. According to local reports, an unknown person called the police, claiming that religious conversions were taking place. All four Christians were arrested and charged under Section 295-A of the IPC and Section 3/5 (1) of Uttar Pradesh’s Freedom of Religion Act 2020. They spent nearly one month in the jail before being released on bail.
“We Christians are targeted by radical Hindus,” the son of Pastor Shiva Kumar told ICC while talking about his father’s arrest, “The attackers think they have the license and approval to attack us, it all goes back to religion and religious politics.”
Another incident occurred on August 6, when Hindu radicals stormed the prayer meeting of 30 Christians in a private home. One of the leaders of the prayer meeting detailed the event to ICC, saying, “We sensed the trouble while looking at the angry mob of nearly ten people and decided that we should leave through the backdoor and into the forest. We hear how Christians were framed under false charges and were put behind the bars, we wanted to escape the crises situation and we fled.”
Since the end of June, ICC has documented the arrests of at least 47 Christians in Uttar Pradesh on forced conversion charges. The incidents continue to grow in an alarming way, as the most populous state in the country heads towards it’s 2022 elections.
Religious nationalism is not new in India, particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where a Hindu monk is the Chief Minister and the head of the state. As poll dates near, it is likely that divisive religious politics will be used by BJP politicians to garner political support. Unfortunately, these religious politics often have the knock-on effect of vilifying religious minorities and increasing persecution. The rule of law must be implemented according to India’s constitution which promises equal protection before the law and religious freedom.