At least 328 incidents of targeted violence against Christians in India were recorded in 2019, including 230 mob attacks and two murders, said a new report prepared by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) India, a network of lawyers.
This number is significantly more than in previous years and yet represents only a fraction of the violence that is being experienced by the Christian community.
Incidents often go unreported due to fear of reprisals, said ADF India.
The victims of these violent attacks included 275 members of tribal groups, 55 Dalits (formerly untouchables), 164 women, and 117 children.
Out of these, 131 incidents involved instances dereliction of duty by law enforcement officers.
Information on these incidents was received via the United Christian Forum, an ecumenical body; a helpline; and through members of the nationwide ADF India allied network.
Only 36 First Information Reports were registered against the perpetrators of violence, whereas on 110 occasions Christians were denied permission to conduct religious functions by authorities under various pretexts.
As in previous years since 2014, the states of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and Tamil Nadu were the worst affected, with 73 and 56 incidents of violence, respectively. Those states were followed by Chhattisgarh (36), Karnataka (27), Jharkhand (23), Andhra Pradesh (19), Telangana (18) and Maharashtra (15).
In total, 20 states and four federally administered territories recorded violence against Christians in 2019.
“The increase in frequency and viciousness of the attacks against religious minorities in 2019, particularly Christians and Muslims, is a matter of grave concern,” said Tehmina Arora, the director of ADF India.
She said that no one should be targeted for their faith, adding that religious extremism “is threatening India’s centuries-old culture of pluralism and religious tolerance.”
“State authorities need to ensure that all persons can freely practice their faith without fear of mob violence or discrimination, in line with the various guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India,” said Arora.
Earlier this month, Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records discrimination against Christians in India, reported Christians had suffered 527 hate crimes in 2019. That group likewise said the actual number of attacks was probably much higher, as victims are often afraid to speak out.