NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A Christian father of seven in northern India was hospitalized for more than two weeks after Hindu extremists with iron rods interrupted his night prayers with his family and beat him at his home.
Pappu Kumar, released from a hospital on Thursday (Aug. 13), was praying with his family in Balawali village, Uttarakhand state at 9:30 p.m. on July 28 when a mob of at least 10 Hindu extremists appeared at his door, sources said.
The visitors told the 40-year-old Kumar, who put his faith in Christ just three months ago, to stop praying, said Mange Singh, a church pastor in the region who has been discipling Kumar’s family.
“Pappu responded that he was praying inside his house, and that should not bother anybody,” Pastor Singh said. “But the furious mob began to assault Pappu.”
The mob verbally abused Kumar as they kicked him and beat him with the rods, batons and fists, repeatedly telling him to stop following the Christian faith, Pastor Singh said.
“They intentionally threw Pappu on the heap of bricks that were placed near his house, so that they would cause him double injury,” he said.
Kumar sustained a severe head injury, a broken leg and fractured bones in his hand in the assault. The assailants relented only at the intervention of villagers, the pastor said.
Kumar’s brother and son borrowed a motorbike to take him to Pastor Singh’s residence 21 miles away by 1 a.m., and the pastor rushed him to a government hospital in Haridwar another eight miles away. Pastor Singh said Kumar appeared so badly beaten he doubted he would survive.
The hospital provided first aid and referred Kumar to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Rishikesh, another 10 miles away. It was 4 a.m. by the time they reached AIIMS, and Pappu was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
Pastor Singh said he later tried convincing Kumar to report the assault to police. He declined, saying he had to continue living and working in the village and would have to live with the consequences of filing a police complaint the rest of his life.
“If I do so, they will come after my life and torture me every day for doing so,” Pappu told the pastor.
Kumar was staying with a relative close to the hospital to facilitate follow-up checkups, Pastor Singh said. Kumar and his wife’s seven children range in age from 6 to 22.
Kumar is a Dalit, known as “untouchables” according to Hindu tradition, and his is the only Christian family in the village of mostly upper-caste Hindus.
Dalits are traditionally assigned tasks that Hindus regard as ritually polluting. More than 90 percent of sanitation and cleaning workers are Dalits, and their “untouchability” remains an integral part of India even though it was constitutionally abolished in 1950.
Numbering about 160 million people, Dalits endure near complete social ostracization. The crime rate against Dalits rose 746 percent from 2006 to 2016, according to an analysis of the 2016 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data by IndiaSpend. Crimes against Dalits rose from 2.4 per 100,000 Dalits in 2006 to 20.3 crimes per 100,000 in 2016.
Dalits who convert to Christianity face double discrimination as Dalits and Christians, as they lose government benefits when they convert to Christianity.
The Constitution of India provides for special privileges for Dalits, giving them benefits such as quotas in educational institutions and reservations in jobs, but these privileges were taken away from Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian Dalits in 1950 by a presidential order stating, “…no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”
Over time Sikh Dalits were accorded the privilege in 1956, and Buddhist Dalits were given the same benefit in 1990. Christian and Muslim Dalits remain excluded despite longstanding demands.
Thus a Dalit who becomes Christian loses privileges granted by the Indian constitution, while discrimination and persecution increase. In rural settings where Dalits like Pappu are dependent on rich upper-caste Hindus for employment, they often refrain from objecting to oppression even as the rich upper castes treat them as property.
Hindu extremism advances and prospers under the patronship of upper-caste Hindus through strategic use of Other Backward Classes and Dalits often deployed to persecute religious minorities.
“Pappu is extremely poor and works as a daily-wage laborer doing menial jobs for the upper- caste and rich Hindu landlords,” Pastor Singh said. “He works in their agricultural fields as well.”
Pastor Also Attacked
Kumar came to faith in Christ after his oldest son, Vikas, was released from malevolent forces by prayer, Pastor Singh said.
The 22-year-old Dalit had gone to various religious sites in search of deliverance, but none helped, the pastor said. He then heard about Pastor Singh’s church.
“Vikas came to my church and I prayed for him. He got delivered from the demonic possession,” he said. “He went and told his father and family members about the miracle that he experienced, and they all started to believe.”
Villagers noticed that Kumar family’s began attending Christian worship, but Kumar had no inkling that they would go to such an extent of brutality, Pastor Singh said. A few days prior to the attack, Vikas Kumar had told a villager how he had received healing, the pastor said.
“The moment someone accepts Christ, these people begin to plan strategies as to how to threaten the new believer,” he said. “They beat, threaten, oppress, and somehow compel them to leave their faith and reconvert. They instill fear in the heart of the new believer, either by forcing him to quit his new faith or facing ostracization from the village.”
Pastor Singh said the assault has left Kumar terrified.
“He was asking me not to visit him or his village – he said that they will come for fellowship when they can, and in the meantime worship by themselves,” he told Morning Star News. “Without regular fellowship, the family will not sustain their faith, and travelling 21 miles to attend my church is not affordable for a poor and big family like Pappu Kumar’s.”
Pastor Singh has withstood persecution as well. When Hindu extremists disrupted a marriage ceremony he was officiating in Haridwar on May 17, police who arrived did nothing to stop them from entering a dining area to check whether beef (forbidden in Hinduism) was being served, he said.
“The policemen stood there as mere spectators while the Hindu goons created a havoc, checking stuff at will,” he said.
He said he asked officers who gave Hindu extremists the right to walk into private gatherings, question people and search their property.
“I asked the officials to check my food, and that I will not interfere while they perform their duty, but that I strongly object to the Hindu goons doing the same,” Pastor Singh told Morninng Star News. “The officials had no answers to my questions.”
He filed a police report, but no action has been taken, he said.
Saying he has been detained 32 times since 2011 by police on false accusations of forcible conversion, the pastor said he was deeply concerned at how closely police and Hindu extremist organizations are working.
“The Hindu extremist’s barge into the worship services and threaten the fellowships first, and if this does not scare the Christians away, they get the police along and by force shut the fellowship and chase away the worshippers,” he said, adding that Hindu extremists have attacked his fellowship 25 times.
The pastor was forced to change worship venues nine times from 2010 till 2016 mostly due to Hindu extremists, he said.
“Since 2014, persecution has increased,” he said.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.