The attacks on members of the Christian community increased after 2021 and they coincide with the enactments of anti-conversion laws in several states, petitioners told the the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Live Law reported.
Anti-conversion laws have been enacted by BJP governments in nine states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. The laws require prior permission for religious conversions for marriage.
The states have either passed new anti-conversion laws or updated existing ones after 2017. The new versions of the laws put in place stricter punishments and newer grounds for restricting conversions, such as conversion “by marriage” – where a person who adopts another faith to enter into a marriage would be deemed to have been forcibly converted.
The Supreme Court is hearing pleas filed by Bengaluru Archbishop Peter Machado, the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India alleging an increase in attacks on Christians in India.
The Centre has maintained there is no merit in the pleas. “It is a recent trend that certain organisations start planting articles and preparing self-serving reports themselves or through their associates, which eventually become the basis of a writ petition,” the government had said in an affidavit.
On Tuesday, in a counter affidavit, the petitioners alleged that the attacks on members of their community are “not spontaneous or unconnected” but a part of a “well-planned strategy”, according to Live Law.
They demanded the court appoint a former Supreme Court judge to lead a monitoring agency to supervise the criminal investigations taking place in the “troubled spots” in the country.
In their counter affidavit, the petitioners also claimed that the Centre in its response to the court “has inadvertently” disclosed the identity of the assailants. It then goes on to name Hindutva organisations such as the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Vadi Sanghatan and the Hindu Jagran Manch.
“The compliance affidavit filed by the Union of India discloses that political groups linked to the Union were themselves involved in the communal crimes,” the petitioners said. “The Centre therefore cannot be relied upon or trusted with monitoring or reporting to this honourable court.”
The petitioners alleged that a similar pattern has been observed in cases involving instances of violence against Christians, reported The Hindu.
“In over 90% of the incidents, a prayer meeting would be taking place in a private residence or a church premises,” the petitioners said. “As if on cue, a large group of persons from a well-known communal organisation force entry into the premises, disrupt the prayer meeting, assault the congregation, including women, destroy property, drag the pastor and others to the police station, register FIRs against the victim community and in many cases put the pastor in jail.”
It further added that in most cases the assailants are accompanied by the local police, giving them confidence to resort to violence.
They also alleged that in cases where a First Information Report is registered against the assailants, it is followed by a counter-complaint against members of the Christian community.
“While the members of the [Christian] community and the priests are forced to a long time in jail without bail, there is no single instance of the assailants having to spend any time under detention,” the petitioner said.