Christians in several Indian states have been badly injured in brutal attacks and subject to a false accusation of disrupting a Hindu pilgrimage, with Sikhs as well as radical Hindus targeting pastors and evangelists.
On 23 August, a group of high caste Jat Sikhs brutally attacked Pastor Rani Gill in Rambagh, Boli Inderjeet, Batala district, in Punjab state. Angered by her presence and her preaching, attackers beat her on the head with iron rods and shoved a spear into her chest. A church member who tried to step in was struck with a knife, leaving him with a deep cut to the head.
The same group of Jat Sikhs have been persecuting Pastor Gill and her church members for six years. On one occasion, they climbed onto the roof of the church building and urinated on the cross.
Sikhs are in the majority in Punjab state, making up around 58% of the population. Ethnic Jat Sikhs constitute nearly 25% – nearly half of all Sikhs in the State.
In Haryana state, three Christian evangelists were severely beaten up in Karnal district on 9 August. Attackers hit Rajesh Singh on the back of the head with iron rods until he was unconscious.
Even while he was unconscious, the attackers continued to kick him as he lay on the ground. He was left with a deep cut on his head and later given 14 stitches.
Karan Singh and Tinku Ram were also beaten, Karan so severely that the attackers broke his leg and forearms. Surgeons later had to put steel plates on his arms to hold them in place.
At the time of the attack, the evangelists were returning to their home village Bhaini Kalan from Gharaunda city, in Karnal district.
Prayer meetings attacked
Around 25 Hindu radicals stormed a prayer meeting and attacked Pastor Ajmer Singh Damor, who was preaching at the time, and another local Christian man, Dillu Bhai. Pastor Damor was unconscious for five hours after he was hit on the head and Dillu Bhai was given stitches for injuries to the head.
The meeting was being held in the home of a church elder, Illiya Vasunia, on 10 September in Fattiguda, Jhabua, in Madhya Pradesh state. The attackers took a goat belonging to the elder and killed it with a sword.
Local police refused to register the incident, and it was not until Christian leaders resorted to higher authorities that a report was made.
In Hutugdag village, Palamu district, in India’s eastern Jharkhand state, a group of around 15 Hindu radicals armed with weapons stormed a prayer meeting where some 35 Christians were gathered on 4 September and set upon the believers. Four of the believers were seriously wounded and taken to hospital.
Pastor falsely accused
In Padlava, Jhabua district, in Madhya Pradesh, a pastor was falsely accused of throwing stones at Kanwariyas (Hindus making pilgrimage). While he was leading the Sunday worship service on 9 August, the church building was pelted with stones.
Police arrived and arrested Pastor Ramesh Vasuniya and charged him under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code against “injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class”. He was also charged with a case of forced conversion.
Local media sensationalised the incident to the extent that Pastor Vasuniya was granted bail with great difficulty, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India.