UN help sought to protect Indian Christians
By Santosh Digal
New Delhi: A group of civil society groups has urged the United Nations (UN) to direct the Indian government to protect life, personal security and places of religious worship of Christians in the country.
In 18-page report entitled “Universal Periodic Review India: Minorities on the Margins: Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Christian Community in India” was submitted by Christian Collective (A National Solidarity of the Indian Christian Community for Peace and Harmony) to UN last September.
This report is a joint NGO submission by the Christian Collective (A National Solidarity of the Indian Christian Community for Peace and Harmony), Franciscans International, VIVAT International, Congregations of St. Joseph, Pax Romana, Sisters of Charity Federation, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries and other partners on the issue of freedom of religion or belief, related to the third cycle of Universal Periodic Review for India, scheduled to take place in April – May 2017.
The Christian Collective represents human rights, civil society and freedom of faith groups represented in India who have endorsed this report. As international partners, Franciscans International, VIVAT International, Congregations of St. Joseph, Pax Romana, Sisters of Charity Federation, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries as well as other partners have been involved and consulted in the process and provide support and endorsement for the submission. This report is the culmination of consultations held in various parts of the country. This report focuses on the status of freedom of religion or belief with respect to the Christian community in India.
“We have submitted UPR report on Christian collective to UN Geneva. India is coming for review on May 4,” said Ajaya Kumar Singh, human rights activist.
The Christian Collective report was facilitated by Dr. John Dayal, senior journalist and human rights activist, and Singh.
The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States
“The Indian government should be directed to ensure that the life, personal security and places of religious worship of the Christian community are protected from attacks, and attackers prosecuted under criminal law,” the report said in its recommendation.
The Indian government could be directed to ensure stringent action under criminal law against all those who deliver hate speech with the intention of inciting violence and hatred against the Christian community, the report said.
Direct the Indian government to consider enacting a law on communal violence that provides reparations and prosecutes perpetrators, in consultation with civil society.
According to the Census of India 2011, Hindus constitute 79.8% (966,257,353), Muslims 14.23% (172,245,158), Christians 2.3% (27,819,588), Sikhs 1.72% (20,833,116), Buddhists 0.7% (8,442,972), Jains 0.37% (4,451,753), and other religions including Parsis and Jews constitute 0.6% (7,937,734) of the 1,210,854,977 population in India.
Data shows that there has been no significant change in the proportion of the Christian community to total population in 2011, as compared to the previous Census of 2001. There is no official data for India’s many indigenous native religions that predate Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, or on the number of atheists and agnostics in India.
States with large Christian communities include Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Goa, Kerala, Jharkand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, although Christians live in almost all the states and union territories of India. The Christian community in India is not homogenous and its members owe allegiance to various religious denominations. Many members of tribal and indigenous communities, called adivasis, who were originally animists, thereafter converted to Christianity as did Dalits or, partially to escape from the clutches of the oppressive and discriminatory caste system under Hinduism. As a result, in the present context, the Christian population comprises of a large proportion of Dalit and tribal Christians.
The report deals with the present political context in India, inntersectional vulnerabilities and deprivations, status of tribal and dalit Christians, ban on consumption of beef and its consequences, status of Christian women, ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (home coming) and the enactment and implementation of anti-Christian conversion laws, and hate speech, violence against Christians and impunity.
For each of these section, the reports enlists series of recommedations, which are to be discussed in UPR.
Later UN would give directives to Indian Government to look into these issues. However, these recommendations are mere directives and not binding.