There has been a dramatic increase in the number of attacks on Christians in India in the last four years, according to a new report, which concludes the situation for Christians and other religious minorities in the country is at a "tipping point”.

The work of persecuted church advocacy Open Doors, the report We're Indians Too shows there were 216 incidents of violence against Christians in just the first three months of 2018 compared with 147 for the entire year of 2014 when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came to power.

Open Doors report

Cover of the Open Doors report.

Thirty-nine per cent of the 1,620 incidents of violence over the period covering 2014 to the end of March, 2018, involved physical violence against Christians including such things as the beating of pastors for holding church services or prayer meetings, attacks on pastor's wives, mob attacks on church attendees as well as murders and sexual violence.

The state of Chhattisgarh has the most incidents involving violence followed by Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand.

The report also notes that, while it only covers the period up to March, 2018, "it is deeply concerning that one reporting agency on the ground documented 775 incidents against Christians in 2018, including 14 murders. 775 incidents represents the religious persecution of 50,819 unique individuals; 18,956 of whom were men; 18,858 of whom were women; and 12,790 of whom were children."

The latest report comes after the publication last month of Open Doors' World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. It ranked India in top 10 worst countries for the first time.

Other incidents targeting Christians in India covered in the latest report include vandalism, social ostracisation and accusations of being involved in conversion activities. The document also notes that Christians and other religious minorities at risk of violence, vandalism, discrimination and loss of resources, "cannot trust in 'equality before the law' or in protection by law enforcement and local officials".

"In several states, the attitudes of officials (who are, at best, indifferent to violence against religious minorities and, at worst, complicit in it), contribute to the narrative that religious minorities in Indian society are 'fair game'," the report says.

And while the report largely deals with the rise in the persecution of Christians - who make up 4.8 per cent of the population - since the BJP came to power, it also refers to increasing violence against Muslims and tribal Dalits, members of the lowest caste.

The report identifies four “drivers” of persecution including the increased dominance of “Hindutva" ideology, state anti-conversion laws, the misuse of the PESA [The Panchayatiraj Extension of Scheduled Areas] law which allows village society to develop its own internal rules and federal laws which have a discriminatory effect on Dalits who choose to convert to Christianity or Islam.

Noting that "Christians and other religious minorities in India are under threat as violence and other discriminatory acts against them are escalating, year on year", it calls on decision makers to “act immediately to avoid catastrophe for India’s beleaguered religious minority communities”.

Meanwhile, in one of the latest incidents of violence against Christians in India, on 7th February, six Indian Christians were injured when they were attacked by Hindu militants in one of their homes, according to religious freedom advocacy CSW.

The group of about 40 people was meeting for prayer at the home of pastor Ranjit in Chapar village, Sultanpur District in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, when 25 Hindu militants attacked, damaging Bible and other property and verbally and physically abusing the Christians, seriously injuring six of them. The attack had reportedly followed threats.

Rights activists John Dayal told CSW that the state of Uttar Pradesh "seems to have thrown away both democracy and the Indian constitution in the state sponsored or condoned violence against religious minorities".

“The state has seen one hundred or more cases of violence against Christians at prayer meetings or in churches and institutions. Portents and remonstrations with the chief minister over the past twelve months have failed to end the impunity. Police are either complicit or unconcerned. We fear a worsening of the situation in the next two months leading to the general elections.”