Christians rally for justice amid ongoing attacks in Chhattisgarh

Christians rally in Raipur. (Photo: Masih Network/YouTube Screenshot)

Thousands of individuals converged at Raipur's Tuta Maidan, a designated place for demonstrations and strikes, to protest the inaction and apathy of the Chhattisgarh government on the issue of the systematic targeting of the Christian community in the state on February 28.

The protest rally titled “Sanvaidhanik Nyay Haq Rally” (Constitutional Justice and Rights Rally) organised by the Chhattisgarh Yuva Manch was the culmination of the padyatra (protest walk) and bike yatra (protest procession on motorbikes) of protestors who had travelled from Jagdalpur and other parts of the state to Raipur. Narendra Bhawani, a political leader belonging to the Aam Aadmi Party, from Jagdalpur city, is the founder and was the main organiser of this state-wide protest that received cooperation from various church groups.

Speaking to Christian Today on March 1, Bhawani said that the fundamental rights of the Christian community in the state have recently come under much pressure. “What has not happened in the past six years is happening now and Christians are being attacked left, right and centre. Their fundamental rights are being trampled upon so much that they are unable to even celebrate their weddings, birthday parties at home or even to pray in their homes, because they are attacked by a certain group of people, on the pretext of conversions,” he explained.

He also expressed concern at the way churches are being targeted in the state and the physical violence faced by Christians. He noted with concern the response of the police who arrest Christians rather than the attackers and the way churches are being closed all over the state.

“What we are saying is that why is the police indulging in illegal works? Why are they asking for Church registrations when it is not required for any other religion? There is no provision in the law that to pray, one must first register with the government. We find that police officials weaken cases against attackers when FIRs are filed by Christians. The whole system has turned against them. And this is not just happening in villages but also in the capital city of Raipur. Churches are closed in several areas and people are unable to pray. Are we living under Taliban rule?” he questioned.

Bhavani spoke out against the lack of mainstream media coverage of such incidents and the failure to hold police accountable. He stressed the need for authorities to urgently address the seriousness of the situation, cautioning that protests could intensify if grievances went unaddressed.

The protestors handed over a 150-page memorandum to the police authorities, detailing the attacks on the Christian community in the state on a case-by-case basis. They demanded that the law enforcement machinery would act with neutrality and without bias.

The largely peaceful protest also saw a brief altercation between a section of the crowd and the police when the protestors attempted to gherao (encircle) the administrative headquarters of Chhattisgarh. The police put up barricades in order to prevent the crowds from marching to the administration building but the crowd persisted which led to minor scuffling between the police and some protestors and led to the breaking of barricades by some elements in the crowd.

The relentless attacks and targeting of Christian tribals in the districts of Bastar region at the hands of Hindutva forces has prompted opposition leaders to make it a political issue and this rally was a proof of the same.

Chhattisgarh saw the second most incidents against Christians in India in 2023 as per the United Christian Forum.