Indian Christians suffered at least 23 religiously motivated attacks over the Christmas period, according to research by a persecution lobby group.
The Washington-based International Christian Concern said the incidents sparked mass fear and left several believers hospitalised or imprisoned. One Indian pastor, Prabhu Kumar, said 'never in my memory have we experienced the kind of hatred that we are experiencing now'.
One particular attack saw 20 Hindu nationalists along with police officials storm a Christmas celebration in Rajasthan, north west India. Despite having being given permission for the event, the attackers beat members of the congregation and destroyed Christian literature being handed out.
Another incident involved 30 Catholic carol singers who were attacked and had their car torched outside a police station in the state of Madhya Pradesh, central India.
Following the attack, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, said on December 20: 'Indian Christians' trust in the government has become shaky in the wake of increased attacks on Christians and members of the clergy.'
William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager, said: 'The holiday persecution experienced by Christians demonstrates the blatant disregard that the radical Hindu community has for its own constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.
'Hindu hardliners have become bolder in recent months, demonstrating this by trying to shut down an entire holiday for a country of Christians. This has been one of the most violent Christmas seasons in recent history for India's Christians.'