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“What we are seeing in India is a religious freedom crisis”—Human rights advocates call for end to religious persecution in India following Modi’s visit to US

“What we are seeing in India is a religious freedom crisis”—Human rights advocates call for end to religious persecution in India following Modi’s visit to US

  • Violence against Christians and other religious minorities in India has escalated over recent years with dramatic upticks in 2022 and 2023. 
  • ADF International is actively engaged in efforts to protect the human right to religious freedom for the people of India.  

WASHINGTON, DC (27 June 2023) India’s human rights record is in the spotlight with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington D.C. last week. The visit, including an address to Congress, has prompted international religious freedom advocates to speak out on behalf of persecuted religious minorities in India.  

Violence against Christians and other religious minorities in India has escalated over recent years, with dramatic upticks in 2022 and 2023, most recently in the northeast state of Manipur. Laws and policies at the national and state level severely hinder and restrict the liberties of minority religious groups in India, allowing for the harassment and targeted discrimination of minority religious groups by radical mobs throughout the country.   

“What we are seeing in India is a religious freedom crisis,” said Sean Nelson, legal counsel for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International. “Christians and other religious minorities are systemically targeted in India by radical Hindu nationalist mobs, who carry out widespread violence and harassment with impunity. No person should be persecuted, harassed, or killed for simply living out their faith. The government of India should work to put an end to the violence and reform any laws that restrict freedom of religion and implicitly encourage such violence. President Biden and other world leaders should speak clearly about the deteriorating religious freedom conditions in India and encourage the Indian government to work to reverse this trend”. 

Mass Chaos in Manipur  

In May 2023, a violent clash between two ethnic communities erupted in Manipur. The clash was a result of an ongoing conflict between Manipur’s largely Hindu Meitei and largely Christian Kuki tribes, although the minority of Meiteis who are Christian have also been targeted.  

From May 3rd to May 6th, large scale violence, looting and arson resulted in the loss of at least 100 lives, over 400 people injured, and left tens of thousands displaced from their homes. Religious symbols and places of worship were heavily targeted, with reports showing that over 250 churches were burned down or damaged. The state government failed to contain and subdue the violent situation in Manipur; the military was only deployed a few days after the first riots to prevent further violence and destruction. For the most part, it is aid organisations and volunteers who are assisting the victims on the ground, where the violence is continuing today. The government has offered small compensation to those whose family members have been killed by the violence, but no compensation offers have been made for those who have lost their homes, businesses, or have been injured during the violent attacks.    

“In many cases, the mob has burned a church or house belonging to a Meitei Christian but has not damaged their neighbor’s door if they are not a Christian. Christians are facing hostility by the Meiteis on the basis that they are Christians,” explained a human rights lawyer and ally of ADF International, who is setting up emergency hotlines on the ground to offer help to those affected. The lawyer, whose name has been withheld for safety purposes, continued “The people are deeply shocked. Through our work, we want to help stop the violence in Manipur, protect religious institutions, allow Christians to practice their faith freely and facilitate compensation for survivors.”  


Religious freedom conditions in India have worsened in recent years. Laws at the local, state, and national levels, including anti-conversion laws, are discriminatory towards religious minorities, and contribute to a culture of unrest. These laws implicitly encourage mobs and vigilante groups to carry out violent campaigns, like those seen in Manipur and at the Broadwell Christian Hospital in Uttar Pradesh.  

Laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Sedition Act target religious freedom and expression. These laws suppress voices advocating for religious freedom through surveillance, harassment, demolition of property, and detention. Under these laws, many lawyers, journalists, and religious minorities have been harassed, detained, and prosecuted.   

International religious freedom advocates, including USCIRF, have continually spoken out against the egregious and severe violations of religious freedom in India.  

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Should religious freedom be protected in times of crisis?

“I support freedom of religious belief as a basic human right that deserves the highest level of protection.

I stand up against worship bans which are illiberal and non-democratic. Blanket bans on public worship are incompatible with the international human right to the communal exercise of religious freedom. Fundamental freedoms apply to all, and they must be protected rather than weakened in times of crisis.”