India’s Christian rights network not hopeful after meeting with minorities commission

India John Dayal (middle) and activists in July 2022 in New Delhi to mark the anniversary of Jesuit Father Stansamy, who died in police custody on trumped up terrorism charges. | Credit: Anto Akkara

Christian leaders in India said that a Sept. 21 meeting with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) did little to reassure them that the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is serious about addressing the ongoing persecution of Christians in the country.

“While the positive is that there is some conversation, I do not set hopes very high,” said John Dayal, an outspoken Catholic activist and spokesperson for the United Christian Forum (UCF), a human rights organization that runs a toll-free service to record atrocities against Christians and extend support to the victims.

Iqbal Singh Lalpura, chairman of the NCM, met last week with Dayal and a delegation that included UCF president Michael Williams, coordinator A C Michael, Tehmina Arora of Alliance Defending Freedom, and Siju Thomas, a lawyer.

The commission, which acts as the watchdog of minority rights in the country, “has asked us to submit more details of the issues we have raised in the letter to the prime minister,” the UCF said in a press release following the meeting.

The UCF press statement also noted that commission chairman Lalpura, a former leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), assured the delegation that the commission will work to address cases of persecution of Christians and proposed that a “joint team to tour some of the areas where such communal issues are regularly occurring.”

Dayal told CNA Sunday that it is not clear that the government is serious about pursuing cases of violence against Christians.

“The chair wants the Christians to do the work and then police will investigate. He did not explain how communal violence data will be collected if government agencies do not,” said Dayal of the meeting that was organized in response to a UCF letter to Prime Minister Modi shortly after Easter.

Dayal further lamented that “the commission has no Christian member. Christians are now [under] the charge of the Buddhist member, a lady from Ladakh” in the northern Himalayas bordering China.

Under the provisions of the NCM Act of 1992, each of the six religious minorities of India (Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians) are to be represented in the autonomous commission for three years.

The NCM chairman, Dayal noted, “also confessed that Prime Minister [Modi] himself had removed the 15-point program” for the welfare of religious minorities saying, “all development is for everyone without bias. So why special reservations?”

Data on anti-Christian violence

As India geared up to host the G20 meeting in New Delhi, with heads of top 20 countries including U.S. President Joe Biden joining the summit, the UCF brought out data documenting the increase in incidents of anti-Christian violence under the Modi regime.

“In the first 212 days of this year, 2023, 525 incidents of violence against Christians have been reported from 23 states of India in just eight months … All these incidents of violence are by mob violence led by vigilante groups of a particular faith who are allegedly receiving support from people in power,” the UCF press release pointed out.

“Attacks against Christians do not stop with mob violence only: 520 Christians have been arrested — accused of false forced conversions without evidence,” UCF elaborated. The organization noted that atrocities against Christians numbered over 100 when Modi took office in 2014 and shot up to 505 in 2022.

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