Dear John, FYI, It’s getting Worse, See? : United Christian Forum

“The narrative of religious intolerance and hatred has swept the country unfortunately.”

The United Christian Forum (UCF) has written a letter to the Union  Minister of State for Minority Affairs John Barla, calling attention to the ‘failure’ of police and district administrations in several states to ‘investigate and prosecute mobs and perpetrators.’ UCF has also claimed that the police ‘illegally’  register false cases against Christians, ‘without any application of mind’.

The UCF requested that ‘FIRs may immediately be registered on receipt of complaints by victims of religion-based violence or discrimination’. United Christian Forum is a Delhi-based Human Rights Group.

The letter, dated 18 June and  signed by UCF National Coordinator AC Michael, mentions a total of 1112 recorded  incidents of violence against Christians or against persons with faith in Lord Jesus Christ in the last three years (2019-2021) and 170 incidents this year till end of May 2022.

The memorandum includes a nine-point list of demands that include strengthening of the Human rights mechanisms in the country, constitution of Commissions to address targeted violence against minorities, and speedy closure of false cases against Christians.

“In almost all incidents reported across the states, vigilante mobs comprising of religious extremists have been seen to either barge into a prayer gathering or round up individuals that they believe are involved in forcible religious conversions. With impunity, such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault such individuals, before handing them over to the police on of forcible conversions. Often communal sloganeering is witnessed outside police stations, where the police stand as mute spectators,” the memorandum states.

Michael, in the letter, points out  that FIRs registered under the ‘Anti-conversion laws’ enacted in 11 out of the 29 states across India are  illegally registered. The ‘said law requires that only an aggrieved person or his/her relative by blood, marriage or adoption shall only initiate a complaint.

“A cursory examination of the identity of informants or complaints in most FIRs registered under the Anti-conversion laws would reveal that they have been filed by persons who are not eligible to file such complaints, in most cases by persons who are members of religious extremist organizations. It is obvious that such FIRs have been illegally registered by the police without any application of mind,” he writes.

According to the UCF, the police do not register complaints from Christians who face religious persecution.  Between 2019 – 2021, while Christians filed 349 complaints in response to religiously motivated violence, the police registered FIRs in only 129 cases. Citing its own data, UCF  submitted that  till December 2021, more than 357 Christians or persons of other religions having faith in Lord Jesus also, were arbitrarily arrested for purported “breach of peace” based on pressure from mobs or on an apprehension of commission of a ‘cognisable’ offence.

“It is our request that FIRs may immediately be registered on receipt of complaints by victims of religion-based violence or discrimination,” says the letter to Minority Affairs Minister John Barla.

File photo of Christians protesting Intolerance

District administration in various states across the country, frequently arrest Christians or persons of other religions who also hold their faith in Lord Jesus Christ on the pretext that their religious activities are likely to breach the peace in a region.

“We are aware of cases where individuals have been kept in custody ranging from 2 days to 12 days under the preventive detention law. This is outrightly illegal as held by the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court repeatedly.

We also bring to your attention the illegality being perpetuated in the police stations across many states by detaining persons in the police station premises for more than 24 hours in many instances. It is our utmost request that immediate steps should be taken to install CCTV cameras in local police stations within your jurisdiction to prevent violation of any fundamental rights of the citizens of the state.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as recently as July 2021 has already issued guidelines to all States and Union Territories (UTs) for the installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations.

The letter called upon the Minister of State for Minority Affairs to :

a. Strengthen human rights monitoring mechanisms, including the National Commission for Minorities and the National Human Rights Commission.

b. Constitute a National/State Redressal Commission/s led by the retired Supreme Court Judges and senior members of the community and civil society to address the issues of targeted violence against minorities.

c. Speedy closure of cases where false has been levied against Christians, for instance in the case of Late Fr. Stan Swamy who died in prison and many others who continue to face wrongful detentions and prosecutions.

d. Reconstruction of illegally demolished churches across the country.

e. Appropriate and adequate compensation to Christian individuals and institutions who are targeted for their religious identity, under the central and state victim compensation schemes.

f. Strict action may be taken against vigilante mobs who round up individuals, trespass private property belonging to churches, Christians or persons of other religions who also have their faith in Lord Jesus Christ or raise communal slogans outside police station premises, on the pretext of forcible religious conversions.

g. Basic preliminary investigation may necessarily be conducted by the police in cases alleging religious conversions before the registration of FIRs.

h. Installation of CCTV cameras in local police stations across India

i. FIRs may immediately be registered on receipt of complaints by victims of religion-based violence or discrimination.

UCF toll-free helpline number: 1-800-208-4545 was launched on 19th January 2015 with the aim of upholding fundamental freedom and promotion of values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity of India. The helpline helps people in distress, especially those who are not aware of the law of the land and the system by guiding them how to reach out to the public authorities and by providing the way to legal remedies.