Hindu nationalism is driving a wave of violent persecution against India's religious minorities where Christians and Muslims face "systematic persecution," condoned by the authorities, the police, and the media, new research suggests.
The report "Destructive Lies: Disinformation, speech that incites violence and discrimination against religious communities in India," was produced by the Christian rights group Open Doors.
It was based on research compiled by a team from the London School of Economics (LSE), and says that Christian and Muslim minorities are facing an "existential threat" from mobs of Hindu nationalists known as Hindutva.
"As incidents of collective and individual discrimination, violence and atrocity against Muslims and Christians in India continue to rise, particularly in rural areas, and against Dalit and Adivasi groups, the atmosphere under which India's Christian and Muslim citizens are living is one of terror and existential threat," says the report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made persecution even worse, it says.
"Not only have Christians been deliberately overlooked in the distribution of COVID-19 government aid, they have also been the subject of disinformation relating to the pandemic. These lies have spread across mainstream and social media platforms and apps," says the report.
On July 1, Open Doors presented to the UK Parliament by LSE the report highlights the severe persecution facing Christians at the hands of Hindu extremists, including the troubling role social media plays in perpetuating lies and violence.
The 27,000-word report documents cases of bullying, harassment, and violence against Christian and Muslim individuals and communities.
"The driving force behind this increasing persecution is Hindutva, an ideology that disregards Indian Christians and Muslims (and other religious minorities) as true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside India," says the report.
It "asserts the country should be purified of their presence. This is leading to a systemic, and often carefully orchestrated, targeting of Christians and other religious minorities," says Open Doors.
"The apostle Thomas was reputed to be the first follower of Jesus to bring the gospel to what we now call India," says Dr. David Landrum, head of advocacy for Open Doors UK & Ireland, in the forward to the report.
" For nearly two thousand years the church has been shaping culture and contributing to a positive sense of national identity in this diverse and colorful land."
He said that recently, the place of the Christians has become precarious.
"With waves of persecution sweeping over religious minorities, Christians are experiencing intense and unprecedented pressure in India," writes Landrum.
"As the case studies in this report attest, the violent nature of this persecution is not only particularly horrific, it is also systemic and often carefully orchestrated."