Indian Christians to protest increased persecution under Narendra Modi's BJP party
Despite the promise of greater protections for religious minorities, there have been over 600 attacks on Muslim and Christian groups during the first 100 days of the new Indian government's rule.
In response to the increase in violence, Christians and activists are planning a public protest in New Delhi on October 4, two days after a convention on minority rights is to be held.
Meeting on September 2, a central committee of over 50 Christian leaders, lawyers and social activists branded the increased persecution a "conspiracy".
Fears had been raised following the landslide victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP Party, in May that persecution against religious minorities would increase.
Extremist Hindu groups have been using a nationalist ideology to promote 'Hindutva' – which equates being Indian with having a Hindu faith.
Modi has strong connections with these groups, and five states in India have anti-conversion laws which state that those who wish to convert to another religion must first gain official permission.
Religious leaders are also required by law to report conversions or risk a three-year jail sentence themselves.
Two particular anti-Christian incidents sparked recent outrage, including the supposed reconversion of a Christian family, which was then used by a Hindu fundamentalist group to promote their cause, and denounced as "intimidation" by Christian groups.
In addition, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reports that 12 pastors were illegally detained on false charges of converting Hindus to Christians near New Delhi on August 30.
"The police even beat some of the pastors to please the Hindi mob creating a violent scene," said Pramod Singh, a senior Christian lawyer who witnessed the arrest.
"The police chief of the area even told us that 'This is a Hindu nation.' The police have changed colours with the change of government," he added.
During the September 2 meeting, Indian Christian leader John Dayal warned that violent incidents of religious persecution "are not isolated".
"There is a clear strategy and plan behind it. Such instances are only spreading," he said.
Founding director of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, Shabnam Hashmi, lamented the lack of religious freedom in India, and urged minorities to stand up for their rights.
"It is time for all to join hands and protest," she said.