2021 Most Violent Year On Record For Christians With Police Inaction, Complicity
The year that just ended, 2021, was the most violent year on record for Indian Christians, according to the United Christian Forum (UCF), an NGO that tracks such violence. As many as 486 documented violent incidents of Christian persecution occurred in the year, topping the previous record of 328 incidents in 2019.
Out of these incidents, more than 200 were recorded in September-December 202. Such incidents included violent mob attacks, battery, arbitrary arrests of pastors and congregation attendees, desecration of churches, breaking and entering prayer spaces, vandalism, looting, and verbal harassment. The rise of Hindu extremism in India is squarely to blame for this surge in anti-Christian behavior, forcing them to live in fear.
“The atmosphere of hatred spread by certain actions and speeches by certain groups and the false propaganda of fraudulent and allurement means of conversion seem to be encouraging anti-social elements,” UCF said. “These incidents are well-orchestrated and pre-planned acts by certain vested groups to divide the country on the basis of religion.”
Muslim Converts Deny Jailed Cleric Forced Them To Convert As Claimed By Police
Several Muslims have rejected the allegation that a Muslim cleric forced them to convert, as Uttar Pradesh police have claimed. Mohammad Umar Gautam, a cleric and community leader, has been in prison since June 2021 on charges of carrying out “forced conversions”. TheWire, an Indian news website, has spoken to many such converts who said they decided to become Muslims well before meeting Gautam.
“He helped me at my weakest,” said Kappala N. Raju, who was a Hindu priest before converting to Islam. “Being boycotted by my family [after converting], my financial resources ran out. Had Umar not been there, I don’t know what would have happened to us.”
Gautam was arrested by Uttar Pradesh Police’s Anti-Terror Squad based on absolutely false allegations of forced converstions. Police accused Gautam of “conversion jihad,” “using psychological pressure for forceful conversions” as part of a plan to “set up an Islamic state.” The ATS scripted a list of 1,000 supposed forced conversions, which are entirely baseless.
Saleem, a street vendor, said that though he sought out Gautam to convert, Gautam did not help him do so right away, and instead asked Saleem why he decided to convert, ensuring that Saleem understood the gravity of his choice.
Another convert said Gautam was very thorough in ensuring potential converts truly understood Islam and the implications of converting. “For Umar, Islam is a big commitment; he can never force someone,” he said.
A convert named Abhishek defended Gautam on social media. “No one is [a] small child. No one can convert forcefully,” he said. “I have accepted Islam on my own.”
Despite these defenses, Umar Gautam remains imprisoned, as Hindu extremists continue to push the narrative of Muslims having an agenda to forcibly convert Hindus.
Suspected Hindu Extremists Auction Muslim Women Through App
For one hundred Indian Muslim women, including journalists, activists, and politicians, New Year’s Day began on a horrible note with their pictures displayed in an auction app developed by Hindu extremists.
The app, known as “Bulli Bai,” allowed users to view the pictures and identities of these women, who had been “put up for sale” and advertised as prostitutes. “Bulli” is a derogatory word for “Muslim woman,” leading to the strong suspicion that this is another attack from Hindu extremists meant to silence and traumatize Muslim women.
“When I saw my photograph, my throat got heavy, I had goosebumps on my arms and I was numb. It was shocking and humiliating,” said Quratulain Rebhar, a journalist.
This is not the first time Hindu extremists have developed this type of app. Last year, a similar app called “Sulli Deals” created a mock auction where men could view the pictures and contact information of over 80 Muslim women. Though the app was shut down, the perpetrators were never arrested, and users of the app faced no consequences.
Though police reports have been filed by several women, many of them do not expect justice. According to Priyanka Chaturvedi, a parliamentarian who tweeted her outrage over the incident, “Police complaints were registered during the time of ‘Sulli deals’. However, no action was taken. That is the reason why these people feel emboldened.”
“Bulli Bai takes hate crimes in India to another dangerous level where Muslim women are being virtually violated and made a free-for-all for a bigoted mob,” Rana Ayyub, a columnist for the Washington post, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, the outrage remains skewed, as many of the Hindu right refuse to condemn the targeting of minority women, who are more vulnerable to sexual harrassment and even offline assault.