INDIA: Report on Hindu nationalism, legal repression and mob violence
International Christian Concern (05.10.2023) – International Christian Concern (ICC) released a report today outlining the concerning religious freedom conditions for Christians and other religious minorities in India. As India recently celebrated its 76th anniversary of its independence on August 15, the country is further from its roots as a secular democracy than ever. Led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing religious nationalist party, India is moving rapidly to restrict the rights of religious minorities across the country.
Legally, the rise of anti-conversion laws criminalizes minority religious expression by making it illegal to convert, or attempt to convert, members of another faith. In practice, Christians and Muslims are the ones charged under these laws. Acts as innocuous as talking about heaven or offering snacks after a church service fall afoul of the laws, with enhanced sentences mandated in cases involving more than one person, a woman, a child, or a member of the many protected ethnic or caste communities.
Other legal barriers, like those barring Christians and Muslims from social welfare schemes, also serve to chill religious freedom. Socially, Hindu nationalism restricts freedom across India by fueling mob violence against Christians and Muslims. ICC’s report considers the recent outbreak of violence against Christians in Chhattisgarh and the ongoing ethnoreligious violence happening in Manipur. Both instances are instructive not only to the state of religious freedom in India but the Indian government’s lackluster response and its refusal to extend substantive protections to its religious minority population.
This report also suggests several policy recommendations to the U.S. government, which has, for decades, taken a soft line with the Indian government on human rights. Its priority, it would seem, is to woo what it considers to be an important geopolitical ally in its fight against growing Chinese global influence around the world. Though the U.S. does highlight India’s religious freedom issues on occasion, it is not consistent in its messaging and has thus far chosen to avoid the most potent tools at its disposal.
To read the full report, click here.