Indian states asked to report on Christian persecution
India’s top court has directed seven state governments to present details of the action taken by their law enforcement agencies in cases of alleged attacks against Christians and their institutions.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud on Feb. 6 ordered the state of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh to present the information within three weeks.
The order came while hearing a public interest petition (PIL) filed by Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore along with the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
The Supreme Court at an earlier hearing on Sept. 1 last year had directed the federal home ministry to obtain reports from eight states to enable it to assess the claims of the Christian petitioners on the alleged violent incidents against their community members and institutions.
The eights states were to provide information on the incidents of "criminal wrongdoings" that occurred in 2021, as alleged in the petitions, verifying the registration of cases by police on receiving information about the crime, the status of investigations, the arrests made, and charges filed in court for prosecuting the culprits.
The Supreme Court said the verification exercise was needed to determine whether directions issued by it in a number of earlier judgments were being followed by the provincial authorities. The judgments made the states accountable for preventing violence and taking action against perpetrators of sectarian violence, especially the lynchings of minorities.
But the judges were told by the federal ministry that no states except one had submitted their verification reports.
The court earlier said it intended to confirm the “veracity of the allegations” in the petitions and also directed the petitioners to share the details of each of the alleged incidents mentioned by them.
The federal home ministry in its affidavit alleged that a majority of the incidents described as evidence of Christian persecution were either false or wrongfully projected.
“In some cases, incidents of purely criminal nature and arising out of personal issues, have been categorized as violence targeting Christians,” it stated in the affidavit.
The Christian petitioners said that an average of 45 to 50 violent attacks against Christian institutions and priests were reported every month in the year 2021.
They also sought proper protection for the Christian community and its institutions across the country, and implementation of guidelines issued by the top court to deal with the menaces of hate crimes, cow vigilantism, and mob lynching across the country.
Christians make up 2.3 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population.