By ICC’s India Correspondent
10/28/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – 45-year-old Ramya was one of five Christians brutally attacked by radical Hindu nationalists on October 17, 2021. When Christians arrived at church that morning, they found a Hindu monk joined by about 100 Hindutva activists were already inside the church, chanting nationalist slogans. The activists forced the worshippers to a nearby police station, resulting in the arrest of Pastor Somu Alwadi.
“A mob of men surrounded and beat me inside the police station,” Ramya told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The mob told me that they will crucify me, like Jesus was crucified. The mob took four Christians out of police station premises and brutally beat them with iron rods and wooden clubs.”
This incident is just one among many that Christians in India’s Karnataka state are enduring in recent weeks. The recent spike in persecution can be attributed to a law that the BJP-led government wants to enact in the state. On September 29, Karnataka Chief Minister B.C. Bommai announced his plan to enact an anti-conversion law in Karnataka.
Speaking about the incident that led to his arrest, Pastor Alwadi said, “I go to church to worship, never have I converted anyone. I worship a God whom I like. I did not do harm to anyone. I don’t force anyone for anything.”
Pastor Manjunath and his congregation were also attacked by radical Hindu nationalists on October 17. According to local sources, the radicals took Bibles and Christian songs books from the church and chased the congregation out of the church building. A case was booked against Pastor Manjunath on charges of forced conversion activities, and he was also sent to jail.
“This is part of the larger plan of the Hindu radicals,” Pastor Manjunath told ICC. “Their local units have become more active and very aggressive, if they could achieve what is going on, it will be very dangerous for Christians in our state.”
Manjunath’s daughter, Anusha, was also a victim of the October 17 incident. She told ICC, “We called police, thinking that that they would come and protect us. When the police arrived, they started to beat us and all the congregants in the church hall. We had no one to help and come to our aid.”
As the BJP-led government prepares to enact the anti-conversion law, Christians in Hublie organized a peaceful protest. Over 6,000 Christians participated in the rally, holding placards, and shouting slogans against the increasing attacks faced by the Christian minority.
Pastor Sunil Mahade, convener of the protest, told ICC, “There is direct connection between increased incidents of persecution and government’s announcement of bringing the anti-conversion law. The proposed anti-conversion law is unconstitutional as it violets the right to freedom of faith. There is absolutely no need of this law. There are enough clauses in the existing constitution to deal with forced or fraudulent conversions.”
“The proposed anti-conversion law is nothing but a legal permit for radical Hindu nationalists to attack and harass religious minorities,” Pastor Mahade continued. “We are mobilizing statewide support against the law, and we have been receiving a good response.”
While Karnataka has still not enacted the promised anti-conversion law, many radical Hindu nationalists on the ground are acting as if the law already exists. The increase in attacks across Karnataka has many Christians concerned about what will happen if the anti-conversion law is enacted.
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
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