NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – An attack on a prayer meeting in Jharkhand state that sent six people to the hospital on Sept. 4 began when Hindu women entered the home where it was held and began insulting Christians, sources said.
By the end of the day, Hindu extremists with guns, axes, spades and clubs had broken bones of Christians of Anugrah (Grace) Church in Hututag village, Palamu District and beaten women unconscious before threatening to finish them off if they continued worshiping Christ, a local pastor said.
About 30 people from the church had gathered at the house of Mukh Dev for a Friday prayer meeting when some women entered and began verbally abusing Pastor Sarvajit Bharti and others, Akash Nandi told Morning Star News.
“Thereafter, two men entered and asked the pastor and the others to go outside, but the Christians refused to go,” he said.
Shouting insults, the Hindu extremists then took Pastor Bharti’s motorbike key, damaged the vehicle and dragged out associate pastor Mitilesh Kumar. They asked Kumar whether he would stop worshiping Jesus and instead worship Hindu idols, Pastor Nandi said.
“Mitilesh replied that they are not doing anything wrong in worshiping Christ, and that they will not stop,” Pastor Nandi said.
Later, some 15 furious Hindu extremists armed with guns, axes, spades and clubs broke into the prayer meeting, but by then members had hidden Pastor Bharti on the roof. The assailants demanded to know his whereabouts. The Christians said he had gone to the police station.
“On hearing this, the extremists mercilessly beat up the Christians,” Pastor Nandi said. “Among the seriously injured, Munni Devi, 60, had both hands fractured, and they beat her up so severely that her whole body turned blue and black, and she fell unconscious.”
Another woman, 30-year-old Mani Matiya, loss consciousness after one of the assailants beat her head with a spade. Associate Pastor Kumar, 22, received a deep cut on his head and abrasions on his body, while 60-year-old Mukh Dev took an axe-blow to the head that left a deep gash.
Sarita Kumar, 18, sustained stomach wounds, and her 16-year-old brother, Pappu Kumar, had the skin at his stomach split. The other Christians also sustained bruises and cuts. At least six received treatment at Sadar Hospital, Pastor Bharti said.
“Four of them received treatment for 10 days, while the rest were given first aid and some medicines,” he said. “Since April of this year we have been pressured to choose between Christ and our lives, and we are constantly threatened to be chased out from the village if we do not denounce Christ.”
As the village head backs the Hindu extremist actions, it has been difficult to hold worship meetings, and the Christians have been forbidden from walking on the main road and getting water from the main pump, Pastor Bharti said.
The pastor had to relocate from the village this year after Hindu extremists chased him out during a midnight raid in July, he said.
In West Singbhum District, on Wednesday (Sept. 9) a massive throng of people opposed to Christianity from various villages amassed to insult and threaten to kill Christians in Sagarkatta village, sources said.
Among the Ho tribal villagers near Chaibasa, seven Christian families from the Pentecostal Holiness Church were socially boycotted and threatened with death if they continued to follow Jesus, Pastor Nandi told Morning Star News.
“One baptized widow out of intense fear and pressure decided to return to Hinduism, and two men who started attending church services also promised not to take part in any of the Christian meetings again,” he said.
Officials prohibited the Christians from walking on the main road and from fetching water from the village well, he said. They also threatened to cancel the Christians’ tribal certificates, necessary for obtaining certain benefits, and told them their lands and goods would be seized if they did not renounce Christ.
Hostilities against the Christians broke out in different villages in the state in July. Area church leader Rampath Nayak told Morning Star News that a group was formed that identified villages where there were few Christians, called public meetings in those areas and filled villagers’ minds with malicious lies about Christianity.
The Hindu extremists in August called for public meetings in which they publicly humiliated Christians for their faith, forced them to renounce Christ and subjected them to local ordinances calling for them to be socially boycott from the Ho community.
The first Christian in Sagarkatta village, a man who goes by the single name of Buthram, began to lead worship services at his home earlier this year, and many started to attend, Pastor Nandi said. Opposition from villagers culminated in June, when Hindu extremists gave poison to his two sons, ages 10 and 12.
“The local Hindu extremists called the two boys and offered them jackfruit, and immediately after eating, the two boys died,” he said. “The boys were rushed to the area government hospital, where the doctor declared that the boys died of food poisoning and even asked Buthram whether he wanted to submit a police complaint. For lack of any support legal or otherwise, Buthram did not file any police complaint.”
In Lupungi Messasai, a neighboring village 19 miles away, villagers incited by Hindu extremists in late August harassed four Christian families, accused them of leaving their traditional faith and socially boycotted them, Pastor Nayak said.
“The believers in this village could not go anywhere, as they are restricted from walking on the road and taking water from the public pump, and the children were banned from the school,” Pastor Nayak said. “They were not allowed to take care of their herds of cattle, and the extremists threatened to kill and take hold of all their possession if they did not denounce Christ.”
In Bichaburu village, less than 10 miles from Sagarkatta, 31 Christian families from the Pentecostal Church of God were summoned to a public meeting in August, Pastor Nayak said. The Christians were told that some village issues would be discussed, but when they arrived, Hindu extremists began reviling them, accusing them of betraying their traditional faith and threatening to kill them if they did not return to Hinduism, he said.
In Masessai and Sagarkatta villages, Hindu extremists have continued to threaten the Christians.
“The situation is tense, as the extremists are boldly pursuing the Christians and threaten to burn them if they do not leave Christ,” Pastor Nandi said. “It is especially hard for the children, with no proper water to drink as the Christians are restricted from taking water from the well.”