TN is fourth Indian state to record maximum attacks on Christians: report
According to data from the NGO United Christian Forum, the southern state with 21 cases came next to Uttar Pradesh (105), Chhattisgarh (91) and Karnataka (62) to record the maximum number of attacks on Christians in 2021.
Tamil Nadu, which prides itself on its Dravidian roots and contempt for communal forces, seems to be turning into a battleground for the politics of hate.
According to data recently released by United Christian Forum (UCF), a Delhi-based NGO, Tamil Nadu was the second after Karnataka in southern India to record the highest number of attacks against Christians in the country. .
Data is becoming crucial for the state, especially following the suicide of a class 12 girl at a boarding school in Thanjavur. The teenager in a video before her death accused her hostel manager of forcing her to convert to Christianity. Using death as a trump card, the BJP had fanned the fire by accusing in-state Christian educational institutions of proselytizing. On February 15, the CBI filed an FIR on the matter and is investigating the matter.
It was in this beginning that the UCF issued a statement on attacks on Christians across India. Founded in 2015, UCF, in a first for the country, launched a toll-free hotline the same year to receive complaints about attacks on Christians.
“The victims contacted us by the number and explained the type of attacks they had faced. Each appeal would be forwarded to independent consultants in the respective states, who verify whether the complaint is genuine or not. If the complaint is founded, we provide legal aid to the victims,” said one of the consultants from Tamil Nadu, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to UCF data, Uttar Pradesh with 105 cases recorded the highest number of attacks on Christians in 2021. Chhattisgarh is second with 91 cases and Karnataka comes third with 62 cases of attacks on Christians. Christians. In South India, Tamil Nadu borders Karnataka with 21 cases. It was followed by Andhra Pradesh (9) and Telangana (3). Kerala has not reported any cases of attacks on the community.
Also Read: UP, Karnataka lead cases of violence against Christians in India
“In Kerala, the government is strong. There, the BJP has no sway so no cases have been reported. While in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is trying to gain a foothold in the state by creating communal tensions. Although both DMK and AIADMK are against communal politics, since there are no strict laws in the state against communal attacks, BJP tries to stage all kinds of dramas like we ‘have seen in the case of the girl’s death (in Thanjavur),’ said AC Michael, Coordinator, UCF.
Interestingly, while the BJP is trying to polarize voters along religious lines on the one hand, on the other hand it is trying to woo Christians into the party. BJP Head of State K Annamalai recently claimed that thousands of Christians from Nagercoil and Kanyakumari district have joined the BJP. Ahead of local elections on February 19, the party also awarded half a dozen seats to Christian candidates. In Annur, one of the wards in Coimbatore district, a BJP candidate distributed cross prayer beads and candles to voters as the ward has a huge number of Christian votes.
But such examples of camaraderie are rare.
Considering data analyzed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) over the past five years, community and religious crimes experienced a momentary decline between 2017 and 2019 nationally. In 2016, it was 869 (cases), while it rose to 723 the following year. The numbers dropped significantly in 2018 (512) and dipped further to 440 in 2019. However, in 2020 the number of cases increased exponentially to 857.
Similarly, Tamil Nadu experienced 32 incidents of attacks against non-Hindus and reported 23 casualties in 2016. The number dropped to 15 incidents and 19 casualties in 2017. In 2018, there were 20 incidents and 24 casualties while that in 2019, the number of incidents and victims dropped to 11 and 20 respectively. In 2020, only four incidents with as many victims have been reported.
According to UCF data, in 2015 the number of attacks against Christians in Tamil Nadu stood at 15. Over the following years, the numbers have steadily increased. In 2016 it was 37, in 2017 it was 50, in 2018 it was 48, in 2019 it was 60 and in 2020 it was five.
According to the consultant, Christians in Tamil Nadu face attacks in three main forms.
“One, when priests and believers go to the people, they distribute posters that have the message of Christ. At that time, the police prevented them from distributing the posters and they took the priests to the police station and harassed them. They are usually made to sit at the police station for five to six hours without any explanation. Most of these cases would go unreported because after a while the issue is resolved on the spot,” he said.
Second, Christians are attacked in some places at Christmas when they visit the homes of people of other religions to share their wishes and gifts, he added.
“The third major form of attack is the lack of authorization to have a place dedicated to worship. Christian groups held prayers in a room or in a house with a limited number of people. These are informally known as house churches. Although no permission is needed to pray in one’s own residence, in many places some people object. In many cases, those raising objections are not from the region concerned, but foreigners. They incite locals and create tension,” the consultant said.
He added that although Christian groups have made representation to concerned district collectors in this regard, nearly 75% of collectors remained silent on the issue.
The claim can be supported by the Madras High Court order in 2019. The court heard a similar case in Coimbatore, where the district collector asked a pastor not to hold prayer meetings at his residence. It was alleged that the pastor failed to obtain the required permission under the Tamil Nadu District Municipal Building Regulations, 1972. However, the court dismissed the case stating that if prayers are conducted without cause nuisance or inconvenience to others or inconvenience the public, no permission is required to pray in one’s own residence.
“Most of these types of house churches have been in operation for more than 15 to 20 years. But the threats to these churches have come over the last four or five years,” the consultant said.
Read also : Tale of Christian missionaries in TN, the Schwartz scheme and its connection to Thanjavur
Highlighting another major concern, he said that in some places people who convert to Christianity do not have access to burial sites and are forced to bury their dead on their own land.
Michael said that although people are converting to Christianity on their own, there are no forced conversions in the country.
“In India, the first anti-conversion law came into force in Odisha in 1967. More than 50 years later, no pastor or Christian leader has been convicted of forced conversion by an Indian court,” he said. .