Sir Edward Leigh has urged the UK Government to protest the persecution of minorities in India.
The Catholic MP pointed out that India is the world’s largest functioning democracy and, with more than one billion people, it is the largest Commonwealth country.
The MP for Gainsborough said: “India is a friend of Britain and a country we want to trade with more, deal with more, and visit.”
However, he told the House of Commons that the persecution of minority groups in India was a growing phenomena, and that “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.”
Victims of persecution in India are overwhelmingly Muslims, he said, though worldwide, they tend to be Christians.
“In recent years the Government have had the courage to stand up more and more for human rights, the right of Christians to profess their faith and the rights of people of other faiths to convert to Christianity,” he said.
Sometimes, he said, “politicians feel that they can use religion quite wrongly to promote themselves, get into office and stir up their followers,” he said. “Our Government, in their dealings with the Modi Government, have to accept that the BJP has sharpened its tone against India’s religious minorities. There is absolutely no doubt about that; it is on the record.”
Sir Edward noted that, between 1967 and 2020, six states introduced laws or ordinances aiming to stop conversions.
He added. “The Indian Government has undoubtedly set an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim tone, and that then leads to violent intimidation at street level.”
Sir Edward cited the Indian Government’s own figures which show an upward trend in inter-religious violence. In 2016, 86 people were killed in sectarian violence and 2,321 were injured in 703 incidents. The following year, that rose to 111 people killed and 2,384 injured; there were 822 incidents in 2017. Between 2017 and the end of March 2019, there were more than 1,000 individual attacks on Christians.
Picture: Sir Edward Leigh. (Richard Townshend/Wikimedia Commons).