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Compass – Religious tensions in Punjab state increased last week, as police who had taken several Christians into custody, presumably to protect them against Hindu extremists, instead beat them in jail.

From 40 to 50 Christians were praying at a home in Maloud, Mukhtsar district, the night of September 25 when a mob, including members of the Hindu extremist group Bajrang Dal, stormed the house. Led by Lekhraj Batla, president of the Bajrang Dal in Maloud, the mob threatened the Christians and beat some of them. Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council).

The believers called the police, and four of them – Gurdev Singh, Balkaran Singh, Jaswant Singh and Amar Singh, a pastor – were taken into custody, as the mob had turned even more violent.

At the police station, however, Hukum Chand Sharma, assistant sub-inspector of the Maloud Police station, put them behind bars. Sharma, who was drunk, repeatedly struck the Christians, gravely injuring Gurdev Singh and Amar Singh.

Sharma then sent forces to arrest Pastor Swarnjit Singh, also present at the prayer meeting. But Pastor Singh had just left his home to pray with others for those in jail, so the police arrested Pastor Sukhdev Singh, a guest at his house. Pastor Singh had also attended the earlier prayer meeting. Police took Sukhdev into custody, and at the jail Sharma beat the 60-year-old pastor, leaving him seriously wounded.

“The police worked hand-in-glove with the Bajrang Dal even before they attacked our meeting,” Pastor Swaranjit said. “Hukum Chand Sharma was fully drunk, and he hit the Christians again and again, saying to them repeatedly, ‘Call your Jesus now, and let me see how he saves you from the wrath of Hukum Chand Sharma.’”

Police released the Christians the next evening, as according to Indian law a person cannot be detained in custody for more than 24 hours.

“The pastors and the three others were in a bad shape when the police let them off next evening,” Pastor Swaranjit said. “They had not even been treated for the wounds that they had received, so we had to admit them to the hospital straight away.”

Gurdev Singh and Sukhdev Singh remained in the hospital with serious injuries. When Christian leaders of Maloud reported the incident to the senior superintendent of police, he initially paid no heed. But after the Christian delegation persisted in providing him with facts, he asked for an investigation. Results are still awaited…[Go To Full Story]