As many as nine states witnessed increased incidents of communal violence this year compared to last year in India, revealed intelligence agencies last week.
Uttar Pradesh state topped the list with 457 communal cases in 2019 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 30, as compared to 396 incidents the previous year during the same period.
Rajasthan with 165 incidents this year, compared to 116 communal incidents last year was second, followed by West Bengal with 79 incidents as compared to 57 last year.
Then it was Gujarat with 40 cases against 26 last year, followed by Assam with 20 communal incidents against 17 cases last year. Other states were Kerala, Tripura, Delhi and Odisha with five incidents against none last year.
In the wake of the reports of communal violence, independent policymakers, social activists and church leaders called on the government to curb the menace.
“The figures put out by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicate a widespread deterioration of law and order in most parts of the country. Significantly, the nine states are those where the ruling pro-Hindu nationalist parties including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are strong,” Cynthia Stephen, independent researcher and social policy analyst, told UCA News.
According to her, the communal temperature is kept high to the detriment of livelihoods of the poor especially those depending on wage labor or livestock-related activities such as leatherwork, butchery or transport.
“Many of the communal incidents have been linked to meat trade or transport, which is usually done by Muslims or socially backward Dalits,” said Stephen, the Bengaluru-based journalist.
For church leader, Sajan K George, the president of the Global Council for Indian Christians, “the report of India’s national intelligence agencies is only thinly a trailer. The majority of the attacks both religious and racial are often sponsored by ultra-religious Hindutva (pro-Hindu nationalist) groups in various states.”
According to George, the credentials of India as a secular country and signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and various international conventions are adversely affected by the lawlessness. The cases of violence also cast a negative spell on millions of Indians seeking employment abroad.
“We pray that good sense will prevail on the self-styled ultra-national who undermine the edifice of India with their rhetoric and denial of justice to a large section of people in the country,” George said.
In the most communal violence cases, a mob accompanied by the police arrives to disturb a prayer service, shouts slogans and hits members of the assembly of the faithful, including women and children. Then the pastors who lead the liturgy are arrested or detained by the police with the false accusation of forced conversions.
Specific cases of attacks against Christians were either intentionally or unintentionally omitted in the report of the intelligence agencies. They include 41 in Tamil Nadu, 24 in Chhattisgarh, 17 in Jharkhand, 16 in Karnataka, 14 in Telangana, 12 in Andhra Pradesh, nine in Maharashtra, six in Haryana, 5 in Bihar, 4 in Delhi, 3 in Odisha, 2 in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Puducherry, Rajasthan and West Bengal, 1 in Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Tripura apart from 51 incidents are reported Uttar Pradesh.
“The rise of communal incidents in at least nine states should come as no surprise to anybody. There has been a systematic and calculated move by the ruling regime and their ilk to consistently denigrate the minorities of the country,” said Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, human rights activist.
“How else can one view the lynching that is taking place with minorities always as the target?” he questioned.
After the BJP-led government came to power in 2014 and 2019 at the federal level attacks on Muslims, Christians and cases of communal violence have increased over the years.
The Hindu nationalist BJP and its affiliates dream to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu Nation).
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) head Mohan Bhagwat has gone on record saying that “lynching comes from the west” and even denigrates Jesus for ‘encouraging it!’
“When those in power demonstrate such divisiveness and irresponsibility, then it is but natural that their foot soldiers go about committing these heinous crimes with impunity — since they are assured of immunity,” said Father Prakash.
“Though it suits the ‘Hindutva agenda’, communal violence is non-acceptable and against the constitution and the secular fabric of the country. It must be brought to a halt immediately,” he added.