Hindu mob, off-duty officer attack Christian prayer gathering in India

ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images
ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

Nearly two weeks after a mob of Hindu nationalists accompanied by an off-duty police officer physically assaulted 15 Christians gathered in a private home for prayer in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, local police still refuse to register the victims’ complaints, saying they had orders not to file any case related to Christian persecution.

The mob barged into the Christian's home and launched the attack in Chhattisgarh state’s Sukma District at around 9 p.m. on Oct. 21, the U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported this week, adding that the attackers demanded that they forsake their religion.

The off-duty officer was identified only as Kitto.

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The Christians, with the help of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, met with the Superintendent of Police of Sukma District and the state’s director general of police, but the Golampalli Police Station has yet to register the complaint as of this week, CSW said.

When the victims went to file their complaints, the officer in charge of the police station allegedly verbally abused them and insulted Christianity.

Two days later, when the Christians returned to the police station to register their complaint, a police officer, identified only as Major, and Kitto allegedly beat the complainants, including women and a Christian constable from the same police station who also worked as a pastor and had been among those assaulted on Oct. 21.

The police station in charge claimed he had orders from his superiors not to register complaints in relation to attacks on Christians in the district.

On Oct. 25, three officers, including the Christian constable who was assaulted, had reportedly been suspended.

“The persistent targeting of Christians by right-wing religious fundamentalists, including in their own homes, is extremely worrying, as are frequent allegations of law enforcement complicity in attacks perpetrated against religious minorities,” CSW’s founder and President Mervyn Thomas said.

In September, India’s Supreme Court directed eight states, including Chhattisgarh, to verify the claims of Christian groups that had filed a petition for protection after around 200 attacks were reported within the first five months of 2022.

The court said verification was needed because the federal government had maintained that claims of Christian persecution in India are based on "half-baked and self-serving facts and self-serving articles and reports … based upon mere conjecture."

The petition was filed by Archbishop Machado of the southern city of Bengaluru, the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, demanding an investigation into rising attacks on Christians and requesting police protection for places of worship.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who reported about 500 attacks on Christians across the country in 2021 alone, issued a formal response to the claim of the federal government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While Christians comprise only 2.3% of India's population and Hindus comprise about 80%, several states in the country have enacted anti-conversion laws, which presume that Christians "force" or give money to Hindus to persuade them to convert to Christianity.

Radical Hindu nationalist groups frequently use anti-conversion laws to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks under the pretext of an alleged forced conversion.

The United Christian Forum reported at least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution in 2021, calling it the "most violent year" in the country's history.

UCF attributed the high incidence of Christian persecution to "impunity," enabling mobs to "criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions."

Police registered formal complaints in only 34 of the 486 cases, according to the UCF.

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