New Year 2017 began with numerous reports of targeted violence and intimidation against the minority Christian community of India. Below is the list of 18 verified incidents according to the data available with Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). Out of the 18-recorded incidents, 4 were recorded in Madhya Pradesh, 3 in Maharashtra, two each in Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, and one incident each in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh. At least one Christian lost his life, while one is struggling for his life in a hospital even now. At least 8 incidents of physical violence were recorded among the 18 incidents.
We urge the central and state governments to take adequate measures to protect the Christian community in these states in particular and in the nation in general.
3 January 2017 – Pastor Tilak Kumre and eleven other Christians were brutally attacked by a mob of Hindu villagers in Gadhchiroli, Maharashtra. Five of the 12 Christians assaulted were seriously injured. The attack took place on 3 January 2017 in the village of Saale in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra following dispute over funeral rites of Tulsiram Hedame, 60, who with his wife had started to attend the Indian Friend Fellowship Church in Korchi for the last five months of his life. Hedame’s son did not consent to a Christian burial and the Hindu villagers did not allow a Hindu cremation to Hedame. The villagers invited Pastor Tilak for peace talks and assaulted him and the eleven others who were accompanying him. Chandrasai Kamro, 55, had his ear bleeding profusely as a result of the beating; Barsu Uikey, 26, was hit with so many blows that he was unable to walk; Lalsai Uikey, 45, suffered head injuries and was bleeding copiously; Prakash Malgaam had his shoulder cap fractured, and Pastor Kumre sustained shoulder and hip injury.
7 January 2017 – A pastor from the India Pentecostal Church associated with India Missions was attacked on 7 January 2017 in Bihar. Identified only as Pastor Deepak, he has been ministering in this area for the last eight years. He was attacked during theSunday worship service by a group of about 10 people in Buxar, Bihar who used bricks to attack him, due to which he suffered a severe head injury. The pastor did not approach the police, so no complaint was registered.
7 January 2017 – Believers Church in Lakhandur of district Bhandara, Maharashtra was attacked by unknown persons between 2 – 7 January 2017, when Pastor Lakhan Makde was out of station. On his return, he found the Church windows broken, “Stones were pelted on the Church building,” informed Amit Tawade, a friend of Pastor Makde. Stones were lying inside the Church along with broken glasses scattered all over inside. Makde enquired from the neighborhood who said that they had not seen anybody attacking the Church. Makde did not approach the police, so no case was filed.
8 January 2017 – An unidentified man tore the flex board of the Eternal Life Worship Hall in Hyderabad on 8 January 2017 after the Church worship service was over. The Church holds its worship services in a rented accommodation in the Saroor Nagar Mandal, Hyderabad, Telangana for the past 3 years and has about 200 members attending regularSunday worship services. The flex board was placed outside the Church as a sign to give directions to the new-comers to locate the Church. The miscreant also threatened the children of the Church members who were around and warned them to close the Church and stop worship services. He warned that if Christians continue to conduct Church Service there, they would have to face dire consequences.
20 January 2017 – In a horrifying incident in village Kubua, district Palamu, Jharkhand Bartu Oraon, around 50, died due to severe torture that he and his wife underwent at the hands of Hindu extremists of his village for not denying Christ. Out of 10 families who had started worshipping Christ, 7 turned back to their ancestral Sarna faith. Bartu, his wife, their son Bineshar Urawn and his wife and his younger brother were assaulted several times, were discriminated and harassed. Bartu was forcefully fed Khasi -idol sacrificed food and then made to drink fermented liquor. When he still did not forsake his faith, the villagers tied Bartu and his wife’s hands and put them in a pond with only their heads outside the water. They were forced to remain in the water all through the night for 17 hours which led to constant illness for Bartu leading to his death on 20 January 2017. Bartu was not allowed funeral inside the village for two days. When Bineshar approached the head of the village (Sarpanch) to intervene, he said that he would not go against the village and do as the villagers decide. His son Bineshwar was helpless and had to walk over 10 kilometers to bury his father in a government land. “Bartu’s wife is also unwell,” said Pastor Sarabjit Bharati, who informed EFI of the tragedy. Even though Bineshwar approached the police station to file a complaint against the torment they went through and which ultimately led to his father’s death, the police called it a religious conflict and refused to file any formal complaint. It was only on 3 February that police called the villagers and the Oraon family and made them sign a peace agreement.
Dr. K A Swamy Hyderabad Telangana 21 January 2017
Dr. K A Swamy Hyderabad Telangana 21 January 2017
21 January 2017 – Hindu extremists harassed and interrogated Dr. K. A. Swami, 47, as he was distributing free New Testaments on 21 January 2017 in Hyderabad in Telangana. The extremists shot four video clips of the interrogation and released them on social media. The viral videos are a proof of the harassment and trauma that Swami faced although not much can be said if he was beaten up as well since there are no witnesses. He was then taken to a police station and made to sit there for the entire day. The day long questioning that Dr. Swami faced ended in a massive brain hemorrhage and a paralytic stroke even as he was headed back from the police station to his house. The right side of his body is now paralyzed and he has lost his speech and eyesight. Dr. Swami underwent brain surgery on 29 January and still is in a semi-coma stage at the Kamineni Hospital, Hyderabad.
22 January 2017 – After the Rehoboth Prayer House, which had about 100 members, was completely shut down at the complaint of local RSS people in Coimbatore in November 2015, Pastor Vijay Kumar began to conduct services on the roof of a shop that belongs to a Church member. “60-70 people would gather to worship here,” said Pastor Kumar while speaking to EFI. Local RSS leaders objected and filed a complaint at the police station claiming that the Church gathering is causing ‘noise pollution’ and ‘traffic jam’. As a result of which the worship service was disrupted and brought to a halt by the local police on 22 January 2017 following a court order. No worship service has taken place since then. Pastor Kumar has filed a case in the High court against the court verdict concerning the Rehoboth Prayer House.
22 January 2017 – Police and Hindu extremists trespassed into the home of a Christian family on 22 January 2017 and disrupted their private prayers. Pastor Asir Jesudass, 52, from Gilgal Prayer House, Kotagiri, district Nilgiri in Tamil Nadu informed EFI that he was praying in his house with his family including his three children on 22 January 2017, when three men from the Hindu Munani (local Hindu fundamentalists group) along with a policeman, identified as, Sub Inspector K. R. Rajan from Sholur Mattam Police Station barged into his house and demanded a written permission letter from the District Collector for conducting prayers in his house. Pastor Jesudass has been ministering in the area for the past 27 years. He was conducting worship services in a rented house previously but since 2013 he started to conduct prayers in his own house. But in this specific incident, Jesudass told EFI that no one from outside the family were present in their house. Since the day of the incident, extremists from the Hindu Munani group have been making frequent calls to Jesudass and threatening him to stop conducting prayers in his house.
23 January 2017 – Police arrested a Christian couple on the eve of 23 January in Petlawad, Madhya Pradesh on charges of forcible conversion. Ramesh Malji Damore and his wife Leela Damore from village Chhayan in Thandla of Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, were visiting and staying the night with Ramchandar Medha’s family on 22 January 2017 when around 2:30 am, a group of Hindu extremists accompanied by the police, stormed the Medha residence. Ramesh, who works with the Department of Railways, and his wife were taken to the Sarangi Chowki and were detained there. In the morning the Chowki was surrounded by close to 200 people who agitated against the couple and demanded that the police charge Ramesh with forcible conversion. The local media published the story the same morning and carried a photograph depicting a Bible and Rosary as proof of the said forcible conversion. While Ramesh’s wife was let go after he was forced to pay Rupees 9000 as ‘facilitation charges’ to the police, he was granted bail only on 24 January 2017. He falsifies the claims of the newspaper and denies that he was every carrying a Bible or a Rosary. The out-post in-charge Ashfaq Khan informed the media that a case was registered against Ramesh under IPC 153 A, & Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act 1968.
24 January 2017 –
A Pastor was forced to vacate his rental accommodation in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Pastor Vijay Thanekar leads the Shalom Church in village Yeraw in Kolahpur District. He has been serving in this village for about 3 plus years and lives in a rented accommodation. On 24 January, his landlady objected to his stay in her house and asked him to vacate the same. She was furious as her younger brother had started attending Church worship services.
25 January 2017 – Two Christians including a Pastor were beaten up by Hindu extremists and the police and were arrested at Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh. Pastor Bahadur Singarh from village Mohodipadakalla, Thana Raipuriya and Kallu Sarkota from village Naharpura had participated in a prayer meeting at Ballu Garwaal’s house in village Bodaeta. Following the meeting, around3 pm, they both went their way. Singard was on his motorbike when 10-12 people belonging to Seva Bharati (a Hindu group) stopped him and started to assault him. After hitting him, they asked him where Kallu was and forced him to take them in the direction that Kallu had left for. They met Kallu on the way and beat him too. “The attackers were carrying a Rosary and a Bible with them,” said Bahadur while speaking to EFI. The extremists assaulted the duo before the villagers before taking them to the Raipuriya police station where they were beaten once again by the policemen. The attackers mobilized a mob that pressurized the police to detain them for the night. The next day (26 January) they were presented at the Petlawad court and were charged with under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion). The Christians were bailed out later.
25 January 2017 – Pastor Ageshwar Verma, 26, was arrested on 25 January 2017 in village Gorah, district Bemetara in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh on frivolous charges. Pastor Ageshwar was charged under the Chhattisgarh Tonahi (witchcraft) Pratadna (torcher) Nivaran (solution) Act, 2005. “He was arrested on-purpose just one day before the Republic Day, knowing well that it’s a National holiday and Ageshwar will not be able to secure bail,” said the staff of EFI, who was all the while pursuing the case with the lawyer. Ageshwar was sent to the Bemetara jail and was held for eight days until 1 February when he received bail. Ageshwar, who is disabled, leads worship service in his village where reportedly close to 10,000 people gather every week in two services on Thursdays and Sunday.
25 January 2017 – A Christian family was targeted by anti-social elements in Hubli, West Bengal. At midnight on 25 January, three to four people who were drunk vandalized Sunil Das’s home. They broke the window glass, tried to break the door by banging hard on it, and used excessive language against Das and his family. Early in the morning even as Das attempted to leave his house, the attackers surrounded him and would not let him leave. Somehow he was able to reach the police station but his complain was not entertained. Das, 52 years, is a Christians worshipping at the Christashray Mahane-dan Fellowship Church in Hubli district. It has been five years since he embraced Christianity and since then has been facing opposition including life threats.
25 January 2017 – In a shocking incident near Kondlahally, Molakalmuru Taluk, Chitradurga district Karnataka, Pastor Basavraj, who leads the Atma Prayer church, was severely assaulted by a mob belonging to the Hindu Jagran, a Hindu group, on 26 January 2017. Basavraj was celebrating his daughter Tejashree’s birthday and had invited about 100 Church members and guests for a prayer meeting and celebration organized in the Church hall. While the celebration was still on, fundamentalists belonging to the Hindu Jagran barged into the prayer hall carrying petrol and kerosene bombs with them. They dragged Basavraj outside the Church and started to hit him with fists, legs, hands and footwear. The mob chanting, ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail lord Ram) broke and burnt the Church equipment (amplifier, sound system, drums etc), Bibles and other Christian literature. The eye witnesses later reported that Basavraj was beaten so ruthlessly that they thought he would die. The attackers took him by force to the local Hindu temple Sindoor was put on his face and he was pressured to perform Hindu rituals. Basavraj sustained several internal injuries on his head, chest, and arms. He is a resident of Thungurahalli village, which is 11 km from where the incident took place.
25 January 2017 – Pastor Bahadur Bhuriya, Fateh Singh and Jaymaal Bhabor of Kaldela, Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh were arrested on 25 January by the Sarangi police post of Petlawad. In a family gathering at Jaymaal’s house, a drunken man entered and started to abuse him of carrying forceful conversions. The drunk also pelted stones at the house, which was witnessed by some Hindu extremists. Next morning, about 50 Hindu extremists lured the drunkard and once again went to Jaymaal’s house and abused him with filthy language. Soon they returned with the police and got Jaymaal arrested after filing a false complaint against him through the drunken man. The false complaint alleged that Jaymaal had approached the drunken man and had lured him with money and job, insisting him to join for the meeting at Jaymaal’s residence. The complaint also falsely implicated Bahadur Bhuriya and Fateh Singh alleging that they were also present at that prayer meeting. The Police arrested Jaymaal and later also arrested Bahadur Bhuriya and Fateh Singh. The 3 were sent to jail under IPC section 153 A & B and were released on bail on 7 February.