Social boycott of Christians in CG

May 13, 2019

The first quarter of 2019 witnessed at least 81 independently verifiable instances of violence meted out to Christians across India. Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh recorded the highest number of incidents with a count of 19, 15 and 12 incidents respectively. The total tally of incidents from Uttar Pradesh alone in 2018 was 104 and the current quarterly data from the State indicates that it is bent on improving its record of violence against Christians. It is apparent that targeted violence of Christians in India has become the new normal, failing to appal either the Government of the day or the law enforcement machinery.

The apathy of the administration in the State of Chhattisgarh too, is evident in the practice of social exclusion that Christians face in
the State on a daily basis. Exclusion may often be as benign as not being invited to social get togethers to the more extreme of being coerced to leave the village. Loss of livelihood, displacement, deprivation of basic facilities are a few among the plethora of human right violations that Christian who refuse to follow the mores of a village may face. Families which are boycotted experience deep trauma and often leave their home and village for good. Trends indicate informal “village councils” in Kondagaon district have employed this tactic the most to compel its citizens to fall in line.

Chhattisgarh Legal Aid Centre has been at the forefront of equipping victims of social boycott to file complaints before the police or village administration to bring to their notice the inhuman treatment meted out to them. Approaching the authorities have at best, resulted in such complaints being ‘settled’ saving the perpetrators from any punitive action. Christians in the State live in daily denial of their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution due to their faith. State administration is oblivious of the guarantee provided under Article 15(2) of the Constitution which prohibits a citizen being made subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or (b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. In spite of such constitutional affirmation, social exclusion cases often fall through the gaps in penal law with no legal recourse available to the victims. Maharashtra became the first State to recognize this lacuna in law and promulgated ‘The Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016’ to address this issue. The statute punishes imposition of social boycott and prohibits even assembling to discuss imposition of social boycott. The maximum punishment prescribed for violation of its provisions is imprisonment for a period of three years or a fine of one lakh rupees or both. Section 3 of the Maharashtra law, aptly depicts the ordeal of a person who is subjected to social boycott in its sub-sections, a few of which have been reproduced below in the table, to
appreciate the gravity of this practice.

Section/ sub-section Provision
Section 3 Any member or a group of members who commit any of the following act or acts shall be deemed to have imposed social boycott on a member or members of the community—
(i) if he prevents or obstructs or causes to prevent or obstructs any member of his community from observing any social or religious custom or usage or ceremony or from taking a part in a social, religious or community functions, congregation, assembly, meeting or procession;
(iv) if he shuns or refuses any member of his community from engaging in the society or cut-of social or commercial ties with such member resulting in making the life of such member miserable;
(vi) if he prevents or obstructs or causes to prevent or obstruct any member of his community from having access to or using the facilities of any school, educational institution, medical institution, community hall, club hall, cemetery, burial ground or any other place used by, or intended to be used by, or for the benefit of, his community; or any other public place;
(xi) if he prevents or obstructs or causes to prevent or obstruct any children of his community from playing together with the children of specific family or families in the community;
(xii) if he obstructs or denies or causes to obstruct or deny any member of his community from enjoying human rights;

Samajik Bahishkar Pratished Vidheyak (Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill) 2016 — a bill introduced on the same lines as the above said law continues to gather dust on the table of the Chhattisgarh legislative assembly.