The attacks on Christians across India “continue to grow and are reaching worrying proportions,” said the group Global Council of Indian Christians.
Sajan K George, president of the organization, noted the increasing number of incidents of violence and arrests of evangelical pastors in recent weeks.
AsiaNews reported that on September 10, a group of Hindu extremists from the Hindu Jagaran Vedike broke into Pragathi Center, a private Christian prayer house in the Udupi district of Karnataka.
The incident happened while a prayer meeting was in progress, said the report.
The attackers accused the organizer of the prayer meeting who was identified only as Benedict of carrying out “conversion activities.”
The intruders, identified as Hindu fundamentalists, “ravaged the hall and threatened the attendees,” said the report.
In previous days, Protestant pastors were also reported to have been arrested in Uttar Pradesh for charges under the country’s anti-conversion laws.
“Prayer meetings interrupted, innocent pastors beaten by fanatics of the nationalist right and then arrested … are becoming the norm in Indian states governed by the Hindu nationalist party,” said George.
He said the tiny Christian communities are “only exercising its rights guaranteed by the Constitution, without violating any law.”
“The allegations of forced conversions are false and raised only to create discord. Not even women and children are spared in this violence,” said George.
“Have Christians in secular India become second-class citizens?” he added.
Persecution of Christians in India has increased since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
In 2019 there were 527 incidents and four people were killed for their faith. In comparison, there were 477 hate crimes the year before.
Between January 2016 to March 2020 there were 1,961 incidents across India, according to Persecution Relief.
Some Indian states have passed controversial anti-conversion laws that discourages proselytization.
Christians constitute only 2.3 per cent of India’s overall population.
Hindu hardliners claim Christians are seeking to convert Hindus en masse, claims that Christians brush aside as nonsense.
As part of their claims, hardliners have falsely accused Christian leaders and evangelists of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault.
Among the states hostile to Christianity, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is considered the worst. As per 2011 census, Christians are a miniscule minority of 0.18 percent of the state’s population.
The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are also hostile towards Christians, said Persecution Relief’s quarterly report.
Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 15 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Government critics say that inter-faith harmony in India is being disrupted by politicians for narrow political gains.