NEW DELHI: Conversion is the argument being used by right wing mobs to attack Christians celebrating Christmas in the week leading up to the festival. In Madhya Pradesh a group of carol singers were beaten and their vehicle torched. Two days ago in Rajasthan a right wing fringe group disrupted a Christmas fair, with the participants running away with their children for fear of their lives. This was in the presence of the police whose presence was participatory and not confrontationist in nature as the video below shows.

The allegation against the two percent Christian community in India has been of conversions, with the violence being stepped up on the eve of Christmas. Sources said there is widespread fear in the villages of Madhya Pradesh, and now Rajasthan where the presence of Christian residents is almost negligible. However, the attack is vicious and terrifying, the sources said with their material and festive artefacts being vandalised.

India has been under watch by world bodies on this front, including the US Commission on Religious Freedom that has brought out fairly critical reports about the religious minorities in India. In fact New Delhi, in March last year. New Delhi refused to grant visas to the organisations representations to visit, with the Commission regretting India’s absence of transparency and what it said was its failure to live up to her democratic and pluralistic ideals.

In August 2017 the Commission strongly criticised India’s slipping record on religious freedom and equality. A section of it was of course devoted to the cow mob lynchings, but it also spoke at some length of the attack on the Christian community noting specific incidents from Chattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh in the prevous year.

- For example, in March 2016, about 60 Christians worshipping at a Pentecostal church in Chhattisgarh were attacked violently by Hindu radicals who believed they were attempting to convert Hindus. Church property was destroyed, congregation members were beaten, and female members of the congregation were stripped naked and beaten.

-In April 2016, a Pentecostal community in Bihar was attacked, allegedly for trying to convert Hindus. Thirty congregants and several pastors were beaten; one pastor reportedly was kidnapped and tortured for hours before being released. Reportedly, the community did not file a request for investigation of the attack.

-In July 2016 Hindu extremists abducted Pentecostal Minister Ramlal Kori and a friend in the village of Gadra, Madhya Pradesh, allegedly for trying to convert Hindus. The men were dragged into the forest and beaten with sticks. The police found them eight hours later tied to a tree; instead of arresting the attackers, authorities detained the Christians on the basis of the state’s anti-conversion law, but later released them. Reportedly, the minister did not file a request for an investigation of the attack.

-In April 2016 in Chhattisgarh, two unidentified attackers, believed to be Hindu extremists, broke into a Pentecostal church and beat the pastor and his pregnant wife. The attackers also assaulted the pastor’s children and attempted to set the family and church on fire with gasoline for failing to sing “Jai Sri Ram,” a Hindu devotional song to Lord Ram. In May 2016, also in Chhattisgarh, six Gondi tribal Christian families fled the village of Katodi after their Hindu neighbors attacked and threatened them in order to forcibly convert them Hinduism. The families’ homes were destroyed.

The reported pointed out that “Hindu national group members” have claimed Christians to be spies from the United States and Western imperialists who seek to diminish Hinduism through forced conversions and thereby make India a Christian country.

A more recent report of the first half of 2017, that has been quoted extensively by the foreign media was by the global charity Open Doors, that monitors the treatment of Christians worldwide. In a shortlist of 50 such countries, it has placed India at Number 15 maintaining that it will rise higher in 2018 if current trends continue.

In January, April, May and June the number of incidents this year were more than double that of all of 2016.

In February and March alone the number was nearly double that of 2016. This includes two killings in the first half of 2017.

According to Open Door data, Eighty-four incidents were of violent assault (by Hindu extremists in 99% of cases): most beatings were severe.

In 32 of them, Christians would have died if timely medical-aid had not been provided.

In 37 incidents, victims were socially boycotted, or threatened with it, by Hindu villagers if they didn’t change their religion back to Hinduism.

In a further 34 incidents, victims were forced to leave their homes since they didn’t want to leave Christianity. (In 14 of these, victims had to completely leave their village or city.)