On 4 March 2020, Isaac Paulose, 48, a functionary of a Pentecostal church in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh was returning in his car after dropping his 5-year old son off in school. On the way, his car was stopped by a Hindu mob of 10 odd people, armed with bamboo rods and a thick metal chain with a heavy lock on it.
“A bike stopped in front of my car and two riders asked me to come out. I had barely come out when the duo was joined by riders on two other bikes. They beat me up mercilessly with chains, rods, and sticks,’’ Paulose recalls.
As he lay on the road beaten up the mob drove their bikes, one after another, over him, breaking his rib. The mob accused Paulose of ‘religious conversion.’
Paulose’s case is not an isolated incident. It is one among the thousands of hate crimes propagated against minorities in India ruled by a populist leader, Narendra Modi who has been spreading the most venomous form of nationalism and majoritarianism that the country has seen so far.
A steep increase in hate crime against Christians
According to the annual report of Persecution Relief, the crime rate against Christians has seen a steep increase between 2016-2019. The crime rates have increased by 60 per cent according to the report.
527 incidents of hate crimes have been reported against Christians in 2019 alone, of which 109 is reported in Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh, 75 in Tamil Nadu, 32 in Karnataka, 31 in Maharashtra and 30 in Bihar.
Persecution Relief is an interdenominational initiative to provide comprehensive support which includes- Financial, Political, Judicial to the persecuted church.
A total of 1774 incidents have been reported in the span of these 4 years.
The curious case of Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, the reported hate crimes against Christians in 2016 was 39. In March 2017, Yogi Adityanath assumed office as the CM of UP. In 2019, 109 reports of crime against Christians were reported.
Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist leader is known for his anti-muslim and anti-christian statements. The youth brigade Hindu Yuva Vahini, set up by the CM back in 2002, is known to stop many Christian functions alleging ‘religious conversions.’
Christians account for a mere 0.18% of Uttar Pradesh’s population.
Though hate crimes against minorities are soaring in the Modi led India, the center has done little in terms of protecting the victims. A cattle slaughter law was coined much before laws against hate crime’s in the country.
The second tenure of the Modi government is setting the ground for the propagation of fear and hatred against minorities. What is even more alarming is the impunity enjoyed by those propagating these crimes. They are often garlanded, celebrated and given seats in elections as a reward.
In 2019, condemning the increase in lynching cases in the country, the apex court had recommended the parliament to enact a separate law against it.
“It has to be curbed with an iron hand. No citizen can take the law into his hands or become a law onto himself,” said the apex court.
But no such law has been enacted yet and it remains to be seen the effectiveness of a law coined by the very party which breeds these hate crimes.