The population of Christians in Jammu and Kashmir and the other states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh has increased significantly, the recently-released religious census report has revealed, taking Christian organisations by surprise.
Though churches and Christian organisations in the states are busy ascertaining the actual factors behind the rise in number, the Church of North India (CNI), which manages all affairs in the region, attributed the growth to an increased persecution of the community.
"History is witness to the fact that Christianity multiplies whenever it faces persecution. It's a fact that Christians in Jammu and Kashmir have endured persecution in the past in the form of violence and attacks on the churches there," said CNI's moderator, Most Rev Bishop PK Samantharoy.
He said the growth of the community in Jammu and Kashmir came despite a large number of Christians migrating from the state "as churches were burnt there".
He said the same reasons stood true for Haryana where, according to him, the issue of conversion to Christianity often led to persecution of the converts.
Samantharoy said even as efforts were being made to ascertain the real factors that have led to the rise in the number of Christians in Himachal Pradesh, churches and other Christian organisations were encouraging "new believers" or the ones who had converted earlier to declare their religion boldly.
"In the previous years, declaration of conversion to Christianity often meant loss of benefits being availed as a Dalit or a member of another backward class. Now this is no longer so," he said, adding that the natural growth of the Christian church in the three states due to growth in the size of the families could be another reason for the increase in their numbers.
(with inputs from Vishal Joshi in Karnal)