NEW DEHLI (Morning Star News) – Police in Bihar state this month obeyed Hindu extremist orders not to interfere as they beat a pastor and a Bible college student, sources said.
The Hindu extremists in the eastern state of India lured Assemblies of God pastor Ajay Kumar and a trainee to a marketplace in Begusarai on March 17 by saying they wanted to learn more about Jesus, the pastor said. As Pastor Kumar and the trainee, identified only as Assaryav, reached the Har-Har Mahadev cross-road, the Hindu extremists who had called them arrived on motorbikes, he said.
The two Christians were surprised to learn that the Hindu radicals did not want to learn about Jesus but rather asked the pastor to perform a wedding ceremony of a Hindu man to a Christian woman, Pastor Kumar said. He repeatedly told them he could not marry them in his church.
When they offered him money to officiate the wedding, the Christians suspected the hard-line Hindus were trying to entrap them with the appearance of Christians taking money to fraudulently convert people, he said.
The pastor learned that the hard-line Hindus were members of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), which in turn is part of the radical Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
When the pastor and trainee refused to take the money, the extremists kicked and struck them with their fists on nearly all parts of their bodies. An area policeman ran toward the site of the assault and complied when the extremists told him to “remain out of this and to let them handle the Christians in their own way,” Pastor Kumar told Global Christian News.
The pastor was kicked in his face, ear and stomach. He sustained internal injuries and still has pain in his ear. Assaryav’s thigh was injured.
The policeman left and informed senior officials. The officers arrived and arrested the two Christians rather than the assailants, Pastor Kumar said. Police detained them until after midnight before releasing them on bail.
The Christians were charged with “deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India,” sections 295/295-A of the Indian Penal Code.
“Handing over two books to us, they said that there are a lot of earthquakes and plagues in this area, which is because of people who follow Hindu religion,” the hard-line Hindus’ First Information Report (FIR) reads. “‘If you change your religion,’” the Christians were alleged to have said, “‘your social and economic status will accelerate and our church, A.G. Mission, will give you one Lakh [100,000] rupees right now’…So, please charge them with forceful conversion and for insulting Hindu deities…”
A policeman who requested anonymity told Global Christian News that officers must abide by the dictates of the Hindu mob, as “this is what has been happening these days.”
Pastor Kumar said that his wife and 3-year-old daughter were deeply disturbed by the assault.
Second Church Harassed
Two days later (March 19), Hindu extremists gathered outside the Mahanaim Church building as they finished worship in a village just four kilometers (less than three miles) from the marketplace where the two Christians were assaulted.
Shouting “Stop forceful conversion,” the Hindu extremists verbally harassed 61-year-old pastor Christopher Bhonsle. Members of the 150-member congregation locked the church doors and called police, the pastor said.
About 20 church members remained inside the church building at the time. Demanding they open the door, the Bajrang Dal members accused the Christians of “conversion activity,” Pastor Bhonsle said. Police arrived, heard only the Hindu extremists’ accusations, and took the names, addresses and phone numbers of the Christians, he said.
The pastor said officers “did whatever the Hindu extremists asked them to do,” and entered his house without a warrant, overturning everything inside. The Hindu extremists had been overheard saying, “We will not allow this foreign religion in our country, and if you continue doing this, we will kill you,” and police were searching for foreign currency, Pastor Bhonsle said.
“The search went on for an hour, and when the police could not find anything, they started to scold me for conducting church,” he told Global Christian News.
Police later returned to the pastor’s home and told him that they had pretended to scold him to appease the Hindu extremists, he said.
Pastor Bhonsle said fear has gripped Christians throughout Begusarai District, as police have clearly sided with the Hindu extremists.
Pastor Bhonsle, Pastor Kumar, Assaryav and pastor D. Joshua went to Patna, capital of Bihar, to meet with the chief minister of the state about anti-Christian hostilities on March 20, but the appointment was abruptly cancelled, they said.
The leaders of three churches in Begusarai on March 23 applied with authorities for police protection, and the superintendent of police ordered a police Jeep to be stationed every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning in front of the Mahanaim Church building. Police were ordered stationed in front of Pastor Kumar’s church gathering, where 25 people worship in a rented facility, every Sunday morning.
Two other attacks in Bihar were recorded in January and February, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). A pastor from the India Pentecostal Church, associated with India Missions of Kerala, was attacked on Jan. 7 when about 10 people in Buxar attacked him with bricks, injuring his forehead.
The pastor declined to register a complaint with police.
In Hzipur, 10 Hindu extremists on Feb. 10 attacked Pastor Sikander Kumar and other members of Mission India Church after a wedding. Six Christians including a woman were injured in this attack, according to EFI.
Bihar is the third-largest state of India by population. Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) party has been chief minister of Bihar since February 2015.
© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.
(World Watch Monitor) – An Indian pastor and his pregnant wife were assaulted and their church set on fire on Sunday evening (17 April) after they refused to praise a Hindu god.
Pastor Dinbanhu Sameli, 30, and his wife, Meena, 26, seven months pregnant, lead a church in the troubled Bastar district of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
Two young men approached the pastor outside his home next to his church at around 7pm, initially asking for prayer, claiming they were from a nearby Methodist church. But they later brought out a sword which they held to the pastor’s neck, and demanded the couple shout the phrase, “Jai Shri Ram” (Victory to the god Ram).
“Where is your Jesus?” the two men demanded; Sameli replied “We believe that he is with us”. When asked “Why don’t you believe in Ram?” husband and wife remained silent.
When the couple refused to do praise Ram, and also refused to stamp on a Bible, the two men took a litre of petrol and set fire to the church, including musical equipment.
Sameli said he “felt fear in his heart” with the sword on his shoulder, but “prayed that God would save him”.
As the church burned, the couple fled and filed a report with the police.
But local media then blamed the incident on the local Methodist pastor, and also erroneously reported that the couple had been doused in petrol and set alight.
The incident took place in the remote village of Karanji, in the Tokapal area of the sprawling Bastar district, which has seen several recent incidents of anti-Christian violence at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists. Last year, the couple told World Watch Monitor, a gang of people from a militant Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, came on two tractors, shouted “Jai Shri Ram” in front of the church, and wrote the same slogan on its front wall, on both the sides of the main door.
In 2014 and 2015, 93 organised attacks on Christians were reported in Chhattisgarh, which is ruled by the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP. Between January and April 2016 there have been 49 reported incidents in Chhattisgarh, 116 in total in central India, including many cases where pastors were beaten.
In July 2014, the village of Belar, also in Bastar, passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities.
In October 2014, the high court of Chhattisgarh state asked the state government to ensure that anti-Christian resolutions passed by village councils would not infringe religious freedom. A Christian organisation challenging the local resolutions said at the time that the court order was “only a minor relief.”
“This [latest] incident cannot be seen in isolation from what is happening here,” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), told World Watch Monitor.
“[That] the police have registered [a report] against ‘unknown miscreants’ is laughable,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “In a small town, police [are] well informed. Police [are] trying to protect them.”
“Tokapal is a very small place, where everybody knows everybody. Police registering [a report] against unidentified persons itself is an indication that police [are] trying to downplay the incident and protect the accused,” Pannalal was quoted by the Times of India as saying.
Pannalal told World Watch Monitor “the police officers who have failed to protect our fundamental rights should be suspended immediately and [investigated] for dereliction of duty.”
Sameli assured WWM contacts who phoned him on Thursday 21st April that police are now working with him on the case.
Recent incidents involving minority Christians
Between January and April 2016 there have been 49 reported incidents -14 in April alone – in Chhattisgarh, ruled by the Hindu nationalist party the BJP. Over ther same time there have been 116 in total in central India, although these include women tortured by their husbands for their faith, other beatings of pastors, and a case of villagers not allowing a Christian to be buried.
On 17 March, the Municipal Corporation of Raipur, the state capital, gave a demolition notice to a Pentecostal church, saying it had been built on land to which it had no right. Ten days before, the church had been vandalised by Hindu fundamentalists during Sunday worship, and worshippers beaten up.
Over a thousand Christians staged a sit-in under the banner of CCF the next day, and the demolition order was withdrawn.
In February, a pastor was beaten during a prayer meeting, while two months earlier a group of activists from Bajrang Dal demolished a venue where people were celebrating the establishment of a church in Korba.
In 2014 and 2015, 93 organised attacks on Christians were reported in Chhattisgarh.
©2016 World Watch Monitor. Reprinted by permission.
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Late one morning in northern India last month, pastor Ram Prakash, 42, was riding his motorcycle home when he noticed men on three motorcycles shouting obscenities as they followed him.
The pastor had just visited four Christian families that day, March 24, praying with them at their homes in Karoate village, Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh state. Having had Hindu extremists set his home on fire two weeks earlier, he could easily guess that those following him were radical Hindus.
The men gave chase, and one of them hit the back of his motorcycle, sending Pastor Prakash to the ground and severely injuring his leg. Yelling at him to stop telling people about Jesus, the radical Hindus got off their bikes and began to kick and beat him.
“I tried to get up, but I could not because of the throbbing pain in my right leg,” he told Morning Star News. “The Hindu extremists surrounded me, yelled at me, and they told me never to set foot again in their village and accused me of making people believe in Jesus and telling them not to eat food offered to the idols but rather to eat beef.”
As Pastor Prakash writhed with broken bones in his lower right leg, the assailants phoned local Hindu extremist leaders, and another eight men arrived who helped mock, push, slap and kick him, with one saying, “So finally, we are able to get hold of the Christian man who has been roaming around converting people to Christianity.”
When a passer-by asked the assailants what the matter was, they told him that Pastor Prakash had had an accident, he said. As onlookers began to gather, Pastor Prakash said, one recognized him and called his brother, who soon arrived with seven other Christians.
Police arrived 30 minutes later and took Pastor Prakash in for questioning and then to a local hospital. The severity of his injuries required that he be transferred to the district hospital. Besides the broken bones in his leg, he sustained cuts on his head and hand as well as abrasions over all his body, he said.
“The police are under the pressure of the Hindu extremist group, and they are reluctant to register a case against the attackers,” said the pastor’s brother, whose name is withheld for security reasons.
The assailants submitted a complaint to police, accusing Pastor Prakash of luring people to convert to Christianity by offering to pay them to erect a church building.
“The accusation they levied against the pastor is completely untrue,” area Christian leader Santosh Kumar told Morning Star News. “People decided to follow Christ under their own free will.”
Previously, on the night of March 9, about 25 Hindu extremists armed with clubs had turned up at his hut and told him to leave his village, the pastor said. They said they would no longer allow him to hold worship services or talk about Jesus, and they threatened to seize his land if he continued to do so.
Pastor Prakash, who has been ministering in the area for 15 years, and his brother told the Hindu extremists they could not carry out such threats, and the Hindu extremists began to beat them, leaving his brother with a severe cut on his head and his wife with minor cuts.
The assailants then set the pastor’s hut on fire, destroying its roof and items inside, including beds and chairs, he said.
Police arrived, took the pastor’s brother to the hospital for treatment and registered a First Information Report against the attackers.
“Because of the constant persecution that we are facing here and in the surrounding areas, many are hesitant to come to the church now,” Pastor Prakash said.
Family Locked In
In West Bengal state in eastern India, a new convert to Christianity showed deep faith after he and his family faced opposition from his parents, the rest of the village and Hindu extremists.
Bahadur Chand Sarel, a church leader in Paschim Medinipur District, said the entire village of Gurudpal turned against Kisna Sarel, 37, after he recently put his faith in Christ. On March 6, Hindu extremists locked Sarel and his family inside their home for more than 12 hours.
After locking Sarel, his 5-year-old and 7-year-old children and his wife in their home from 1 p.m. to after 1 a.m., the Hindu extremists took Sarel out and kicked, punched and beat him with sticks in the wee hours, he said.
“They blocked the village entry and harassed the Christian family,” Chand Sarel told Morning Star News. “They told him never to go to the church again but to perform all the Hindu poojahs[offerings to gods] and rituals, and then beat him up.”
A villager phoned Chand Sarel, who informed police, and officers rescued the Christians, he said. Kisna Sarel’s head, chest and other areas of his body were injured, and he received hospital treatment.
“I am not worried about anything,” the new convert told Morning Star News. “I have Jesus, and even if they take my life, I will still follow Jesus.”
Kisna Sarel and his family go to another village about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from their home for worship.
“However, the villagers are closely watching Kisna Sarel’s movement and threatened to harm him if he and his family ever go to church again,” Chand Sarel said.
After the village head submitted a letter to police explaining his regret and giving assurances that it would not happen again, police decided not to register a complaint. Entry into the village for any outsider, however, is still strictly prohibited.
(c) 2016 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.
Morning Star News reports that Hindu extremists attacked a prayer meeting in Jharkhand state and sent six people to the hospital on Sept. 4. Armed with guns, axes, spades and clubs the extremist broke the bones of several Christians of Anugrah (Grace) Church in Hututag village, Palamu District. Several women were beaten unconscious before they were threatened that they would be finished off if they continued worshiping Christ.
Full story at Morning Star News