Date:  June 3, 2020

Religious extremists told at least three Indian Christian families they could not bury their loved ones without paying a “fine” in Chhattisgarh State in May, as persecution and mob violence against believers continued despite the Covid-19 lockdown.

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A doctor treats the injuries of one of the many Indian Christians wounded during the lockdown mob attacks [Credit: ADF]

In separate incidents on 5, 7 and 18 May, Christian families in Bastar and Dantewade districts were ordered to pay “restitution” because they had not taken part in “the religious rituals of the village”, and told no funeral could be held until the money was paid.

“It is a terrible and unimaginable thing to be denied an opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one with dignity,” said the Alliance Defending Freedom India Trust (ADF), which reported 15 similar cases to police this year in the same districts.

Six incidents of targeted violence against Christians took place in Chhattisgarh State in April while the coronavirus restrictions were in place. In the majority of incidents, Christians were physically attacked by mobs of at least 50 people when they refused to take part in religious rituals that violated their faith.

On 17 April, villagers in Mendoli severely assaulted a Christian family, including tearing off the clothes of the victim’s wife, and forcefully performed a “sanctification ritual” on them. The mob then demanded a fee of 5,000 Indian rupees (£53; $66; €59) and threatened to kill the family if they informed the police.

Three incidents of violence were recorded in Jharkhand State in April during lockdown. On 16 April, an armed mob shot a young Christian girl and threatened to kill her if she continued to spread the Gospel. The girl’s father was shot by religious extremists in 2015 for being involved in missionary work.

ADF lawyers said all nine anti-Christian incidents reported in April involved violence against women. “This trend suggests that women are increasingly vulnerable to violence during the lockdown,” they said. All nine incidents were reported to police but only two were officially recorded as an offence in a First Information Report (FIR).