Sir Edward Leigh MP has called upon the UK Government to protest the ongoing persecution of religious minorities in India.
“India is a friend of Britain and a country we want to trade with more, deal with more, and visit,” he said. Quoting the Indian Government’s figures, he called on the house to be aware of the increasing communalist and sectarian violence. In 2016, 86 people were killed and 2,321 injured in 703 incidents. In 2017, it was 111 and 2,384 respectively.
“India is a friend of Britain and a country we want to trade with more, deal with more, and visit,” Leigh said. But “true friendship requires not turning a blind eye to each other’s faults”.
“We must protest the violence and persecution in India today,” he said. “I hope that this debate is a small step in the right direction.”
In a criticism of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, Leigh said, “politicians feel that they can use religion quite wrongly to promote themselves, get into office and stir up their followers.”
“Our Government, in their dealings with the Modi Government, have to accept that the BJP has sharpened its tone against India’s religious minorities,” he continued, “there is absolutely no doubt about that; it is on the record.”
A recent report by the Evangelical Fellowship of India points to a steady rise of anti-Christian violence since 2014. In that year, there were 147 violent attacks on Christians, rising to 327 in 2020, in spite of the lockdown.
Inaction by the police has increased fears of Indian Christians. In one case in Jharkand last year, six families under pressure to leave their homes from their non-Christian neighbours reported the threats to the police. The police told them to convert to Hinduism or leave the village.
In a climate of increasing inter-faith tension, Indian state governments have passed a number of anti-forced conversion laws. These laws are particularly damaging for Christians as they prevent the propagation of the gospel. According to International Christian Concern, these laws are used by radical nationalists to falsely accuse and then “harass and assault” individual Christians. No one has been convicted under these laws in the 54 years since the first was introduced.