On Sunday 15 May, Kamli Kawasi, a 22-year-old woman, was severely beaten and left unconscious by four young Hindu men who came hunting for her younger brother at their home in a village 40 kilometres from Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh state. Kamli’s crime was being a Christian.
Kamli, along with her brother Bamaan (19) and their mother, attended the Sunday worship service at a church four kilometres from their village, Parapur, on the morning of 15 May. Parapur falls under the Lohandiguda area in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state. That evening, the four young men (aged between 16 and 24) came to their house, hunting for Bamaan. They wanted to beat him up because the family were Christians.
“Because of you, our gods and goddesses are leaving the village and running away,” they told Kamli. They blamed the family for causing deaths in their village. “A child in the village had died a natural death and these young men blamed the Christians for causing this death by leaving their own faith and following Christ, thus causing Hindu gods to get angry”, said local pastor, Bhupendra Khora, to Barnabas Fund.
They also accused the Christians of practising ‘black magic’.
Kamli was hand-grinding the grain in the courtyard when the young men started to verbally abuse and physically assault her. Bamaan and his mother, who were inside the house, heard the commotion and remained where they were. The young men dragged Kamli by her hair and mercilessly beat her chest, face, abdomen and all parts of her body, resulting in her falling unconscious. Her assailants then fled.
Kamli’s uncle, who lives nearby, happened to visit the family’s home and found Kamli unconscious outside in the dust. It was then that Bamaan and their mother came out of hiding. They immediately rushed Kamli to the government hospital in Lohandiguda. “Kamli regained consciousness on Tuesday (17 May) and was able to state her ordeal only then”, said Khora.
When a team from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) visited Kamli on her third day in hospital, she was still bleeding heavily. She stayed in the hospital for eight days and was then transferred to a Christian hospital in Jagdalpur. Kamli’s brother, Bamaan, spoke to EFI and told them, “They would have killed me, if I came out of hiding”.
It is more than 15 days since the attack, and Kamli, her brother and mother have not been able to go back to their village. “After being discharged from the hospital on 24 May, they have taken shelter at a believer’s house”, Khora said. “They have been threatened not to enter the village. ‘We will kill them, if they return’, the extremists have warned”.
According to sources, each evening since the attack the four young Hindu men return to the family’s house in the village searching for them.
Khora said that a First Information Report was registered with the police on 24 May, “but no investigations have been done by the police untill now”. Khora, along with Kamli, her brother and mother, visited the Additional Superintendent of Police on 31 May, stating that they have not been able to return back home because of the threat of further attacks. “He has assured us of some action against the assaulters”, said Khora.
Khora added, “Kamli complained of not being able to hear in her left ear after the assault and still has chest pain”. He continued, “They are poor and illiterate, they do not know what to do and how to face the situation. They are frightened but yet don’t want to leave Christ”.
Khora continued, “Though Parapur is a tribal village and tribals are animists and worship nature or ancestors, they have [now] started to worship Hindu gods and goddesses. It is a part of the Bajrang Dal’s mission to Hinduize the tribals”. The Bajrang Dal is a militant Hindu organisation that forms the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad.