Villagers in the east-central state of Chhattisgarh are not allowing Christians to bury their dead until they pay fines for not taking part in Hindu festivals and rituals. Attacks on the minority community in India continue despite the COVID-19 lockdown.
Christians faced stiff opposition to burying their dead in three separate incidents in the districts of Bastar and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state last month, Alliance Defending Freedom India reported.
The Christians were told to make “restitution” for not partaking in or giving donations for religious rituals in those villages for all the years gone by, and pay an additional fine before their dead would be allowed to be buried.
“It is a terrible and unimaginable thing to be denied an opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one with dignity,” ADF India said.
Since 2019, the group has recorded at least 15 confirmed incidents of Christians being denied burial rights in Chhattisgarh state.
After the group’s legal team intervened, “the Christians were provided police protection, and in some cases even provided land by the government, for the burials to take place.”
In April, when India was under a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the world’s strictest, at least six incidents of targeted violence against Christians took place in Chhattisgarh, according to ADF India. 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 April 17, villagers in Chhattisgarh state’s Mendoli area severely assaulted a Christian family, including tearing off the clothes of the victim’s wife, and forcefully performed a “sanctification ritual” on them, the U.K.-based Christian charity Barnabas Fund said, adding that the mob then demanded a fee of 5,000 Indian rupees ($66) and threatened to kill the family if they informed the police.
While India’s Grand Old Party, the Indian National Congress, has been governing Chhattisgarh state since December 2018, Hindu right-wing groups are active in the state, which was earlier ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, for 10 years.