By Naila Khan / Religion Unplugged
NEW DELHI — Last month, Pastor Satish Kumar and his family were invited to a birthday celebration of a 6-year-old girl in the North Indian state Haryana. The joyous birthday celebration turned into a nightmare for him and his family. He was accused of forcing conversion to Christianity by a Bajrang Dal mob, a Hindu nationalist group associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
“We had begun cutting the cake when a group of men barged into the house and started beating me,” Kumar said. “They took me out of the house and kept chanting slogans of Jai Shri Ram (hail Lord Ram). They snatched my Bible and burnt it in front of my eyes.”
A rise in state anti-conversion laws is leaving Indian Christians in BJP-ruled states at a higher risk of persecution. There have been targeted attacks on pastors and nuns, and churches and Christian schools have been vandalized.
Earlier this month, in the Supreme Court of India, the government denied that any “targeted” attacks on Christians have occurred and accused Christian organizations that filed a public interest litigation of harboring a hidden motive.
According to a study by United Christian Forum, a human rights organization that fights for the rights of the members of the Christian community, at least 127 cases of violence against Christians were documented in the first 103 days of 2022 in India, a count that could surpass last year’s record high before the end of the year. 2021 saw the highest number of physical attacks against Indian Christians on record — with 486 attacks, an 80% increase from 2020 — according to UCF, which collects the data from a phone helpline.
Ever since the attack on Kumar, his children have not been able to go back to school for fear of another attack.
“My family is afraid to step out of the house,” Kumar said. “The incident has left them traumatized. We are taking counseling at a nearby hospital. A slightest knock on our door scares us these days.”
The Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh is 95% Hindu, 21% Muslim and 0.2% Christian.
Christians in India make up only 2.3% of the total population, but some Hindu fundamentalist groups consider them as a threat and symbol of foreign, colonial religion. While British missionaries helped spread Christianity in some parts of India, Christianity has existed in south India since the beginning of the faith in the first century, when according to tradition, the Apostle Thomas established churches in Kerala.
According to available census data, the size of the Christian community relative to the country’s population has either been static or declining since 1971. The 1971 census estimated that Christians accounted for 2.6% of India’s population. By 2001, this figure dropped to 2.3%. While the religious composition of 2011 census figures has never been released, leaked data has shown that there has been a further decline in the size of the community.
Apoorvanand Jha, a professor at Delhi University and a political commentator, calls the new mass conversion law introduced in Himachal Pradesh unconstitutional.
“There is nothing religious about these laws,” he said. “They are a political project of the Bharatiya Janata Party. They want to tell the Hindus that Christians and Muslims are their enemies and soon they will outnumber the Hindus.”
This story was originally published in religionunplugged.com . Read the full story here