A faith-based human rights organization has condemned recent attacks on members of a tribal group of Christians over false accusations in India.
The group Christians Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported that widespread attacks on “scheduled tribes,” an ethnic and religious minority, “must be stopped.”
Mervyn Thomas, president of CSW, said the right of the people to choose a religion or belief “must be protected like any other Indian citizen.”
Scheduled Tribes is the legal classification given to indigenous social groups of people who are the earliest inhabitants of India.
The Indian Constitution guarantees educational, cultural, social, economic, and political protection to the scheduled tribes.
Thomas said that although Indian laws give scheduled tribes special protection, “the impunity enjoyed by those who perpetrate crimes against them is creating a situation in which their identity and livelihoods are under sustained attack, characterized by daily humiliation, harassment, and discrimination.”
Early this month, seven Christians from the Khariya tribe in Bheri Kudar village, Simdega district, Jharkhand state, were attacked over allegations of slaughtering a cow.
At least 60 people led by a business class community called “Teli Sahu,” started to attack the village at six o’clock in the morning of Sept. 16.
Reports said the attackers “verbally abused” the tribal people before partially shaving their heads and forcing them to chant “jai Sri Ram” (“long live Shri Ram”).
Official police investigations, however, revealed that the accusations against the Christian minorities were false and no evidence of slaughter was found.
About eight people were arrested and charged with violations of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.
It is considered as a criminal offense to slaughter a cow in India under the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act 2005.
Those who will be found guilty of the crime could end up in prison for up to ten years and fined up to 10,000 Rupees.
Orthodox Hindus consider a cow to be a sacred symbol of life that must be protected and revered. In Hindu scriptures, a cow is associated with Aditi, the mother of all the gods.
There has been a rising incidence of mob lynching in the name of protecting cows targeting members of the scheduled tribes since the new administration in India assumed power in May 2014.
Local human rights groups have expressed alarmed over the alleged targeted violence against Christians belonging to the tribal communities in Jharkhand.
CSW’s Thomas urged authorities “to develop a plan of action to stop the violence” against ethnic and religious minorities “on the basis of their religion or belief and to ensure that their rights are protected.”
“We also call on the Indian government to implement one of the recommendations it accepted during the 2017 Universal Periodic Review of the country’s human rights record at the UN, to develop a national plan on human rights to prevent violence committed in the name of religion, and other forms of oppression related to religion or belief,” said Thomas.