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Continuing Incidents of Religious Discrimination and Persecution in India Indicative of Serious Social and Political Unrest

Contact: Matthew Mullock, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, 202-835-8760, Mullock@religionandpolicy.org


WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- Two more incidents in India have raised the concerns of human rights activists and others as India appears to be moving down a road of greater religiously-based social and political unrest.


Himachal Pradesh passed a legislation banning forced religious conversions.


The Congress-led government in the state passed the legislation during its four-day winter session held at the newly constructed Vidhan Sabha (State Legislature) in Dharamshala on Friday.


Under the bill, persons who had forced or induced someone to change his/her religion then he/she would liable for punishment.


The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also welcomed the Bill.


In the recent months, five states ruled by BJP or its allies have introduced or strengthened anti-conversion laws, which they say will protect India's religious identity and foster communal harmony. But this is the first time such a law has been passed in a government ruled by Congress Party, which has been critical of such laws in BJP-ruled states.


In another incident, Hindu extremists burned down a church in India on Saturday December 23, arrested carol-singers on Christmas Eve and disrupted yuletide services in several states. One Christian suffered a fractured hand, and another lost his hearing.


Extremists burned down a thatched church in Boriguma area, Koraput district of Orissa state on Saturday night (December 23), preventing church members from celebrating Christmas there. The congregation had already decorated the building for Christmas festivities, but everything was destroyed in the fire.


Members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal attacked about 20 Christians who had gathered in a church in Jalampur; they stormed into the church, beat some of the Christians and destroyed hymnbooks and Bibles.


Five Christians were injured in the attack; one suffered a loss of hearing due to a blow to his head, while a Bible school student's hand was fractured.


Hindu extremists also prevented tribal Christians in Tilonda village, Thane district of Maharashtra state, from celebrating a joint Christmas prayer service on Christmas Eve.


Over 400 Christians had gathered for the event.


Before the service could begin, however, a large mob from the local Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad barged into the assembly, shouting slogans against Christianity and driving the Christians away from the prayer hall.


Fearing further violence, church officials canceled the event.


"These ongoing acts of discrimination and persecution committed against religious minorities in India are an indication that India is moving down a road of greater religiously-based social and political unrest," commented Institute on Religion and Public Policy President Joseph K. Grieboski. "The fact that anti-conversion legislation was passed by a Congress-led legislature unveils the deception that Congress had put forward when coming to power that it was a party of reform, change, inclusion, and fundamental rights."