Situation for India's Christians is 'worsening year on year'

(Unsplash/Frank Holleman)

After a steady decline in conditions for India's Christian minority in recent years, there are fears that things may be about to get worse if the ruling BJP holds onto power in the forthcoming election. 

Millions of Indians will cast their votes from 11 April to 23 May in the world's largest democratic elections, but one pastor who asked to be unnamed for security reasons fears election rigging. 

"People regret their choices of 2014. Where I live, most people don't like the BJP at all," the pastor told Open Doors UK.

"They shouldn't win. But we are afraid that the elections will be rigged. Maybe the voting machines will be hacked or maybe people will be given money if they vote for the BJP.

"We, as pastors, were promised land and protection if we voted for them."

Instead of land and protection, Christians have seen an increase in attacks since the BJP came to power in 2014. 

According to Open Doors, there were 775 recorded violent incidents against Christians last year, affecting 50,819 people.  The organisation fears the actual figure may be much higher because of unreported attacks. 

There are 64 million Christians in India, accounting for less than five per cent of the population.

The increase in violence and harassment has seen India soar 18 places to number 10 on the Open Doors World Watch List - an annual ranking of the 50 worst countries in the world for persecution against Christians. 

Another pastor said he had been the victim of intimidation tactics after becoming active on social media.  Following a warning letter, he stopped all social media engagement.

The pastor said the BJP had "done nothing for Christians and other minorities". 

"All the decisions they make are against minorities. I fear for the future of my country and my family, especially my children," the pastor said. 

One pastor told Open Doors he was praying that the Indian National Congress would beat the BJP in the elections. 

"The elections are directly connected to our freedom," he said. 

According to Open Doors, the pastor was beaten along with a girl he was accused of converting to Christianity, before being forced out of his home.

"This is the country we live in," he said.

Zoe Smith, Head of Advocacy at Open Doors UK, said: "The situation for Christians and other religious minorities in India is worsening year on year.

"It is vital that whoever is elected to form India's next government does everything in their power to improve the legal and societal environment for India's embattled religious minorities."