NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Late one morning in northern India last month, pastor Ram Prakash, 52, 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.