By ICC’s India Correspondent
3/6/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “We want to see [the] pastor and kill him for preaching a foreign religion in our village. Let him come out of the house,” shouted an enraged mob of 70 Hindu radicals standing at the entrance of a Christian home in Appampally, a village in India’s Mahabubnagar district. This is one of several areas of the country where Christians are facing intense pressure for choosing to follow Jesus. Threats and abuse committed against the Christian community by Hindu radicals are becoming a more than regular phenomena in many of India’s rural areas.
Mahabubnagar, a rural district in the south, topped the list for number of incidents of Christian persecution in India’s Telangana state last year. Nationally, Telangana ranked fourth in the country, preceded only by Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. A significant rise in incidents of Christian persecution in the district, which has shocked Christians, followed the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rise to power at the national level in May 2014. Right-wing fringe elements gained confidence following BJP’s political victory and began to carry out attacks against Christian communities across India, such as burning churches and physically abusing Christians.
In the beginning of 2015, ICC sent its India representative to document the adverse conditions Christians were facing, particularly in the rural areas of Mahabubnagar district.
Christians of Appampally Suffer Intense Persecution
Vadde Janardhan, a 50-year-old farmer who became a Christian following a miracle healing in his family, was recently targeted by Hindu radicals in Appampally. “I have been attacked almost on [a] regular basis since I came to faith little over a year [ago]; the latest being on the 23rd of November 2014,” Mr. Janardhan told ICC.
On November 23, Janardhan had organized a birthday celebration for his 3-year-old granddaughter and invited 20 other Christians from the area to the event, including a pastor from a different village. During the gathering, more than 70 Hindu radicals assembled in front of Janardhan’s house and shouted anti-Christian slogans, interrupting the prayers of those at the event. The Christians confronted the mob outside of the house because they were unable to carry out their prayers. The crowd of Hindus then started using vulgar language, particularly toward the Christian women.
Several of them then started beating the Christians, saying, “Let pastor come out. We want to see him and kill him today.” Meanwhile, someone from the Christian community informed the police about the unfolding incident. When the police arrived, the Hindu radicals ran in different directions out of the village. The pastor, who initially came to lead prayers, was forced to hide in the house that night, fearing for his life.
On the morning of October 28, before the incident that took place at the birthday celebration, Janardhan suffered another attack. A man named Ramesh, reportedly a local leader of the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) accused Janardhan of accepting a foreign religion and attempted to smash Janardhan’s head with a large stone.
At midnight on December 31, also in t Appampally, a mob of 15 Hindu radicals caught a 22-year-old Christian named Raju and beat him severely, attempting to force him into leaving Christianity for Hinduism.
A clear pattern of Hindu radicals preying on the vulnerable Christian minority community in Mahabubnagar District has been established.
Christian Convert Forced to Choose Between Home and Faith
Gangamma, a 60-year-old woman, lives in Akleshpur, another village in Mahabubnagar District, with her three grandchildren. With folded hands and tears in her eyes, she told ICC about the persecution she and her family had endured for going to church and following Jesus. Before traveling to Akleshpur, local pastors strongly advised ICC not to visit the region, warning that the village and its people were dangerous for Christians.
Gangamma’s granddaughter, currently in high school, heard about Jesus through her friend and started attending a church at Narayanpet, a village near Akleshpur. Gradually, the entire family, including Gangamma, started attending the church and professed their faith in Jesus. This was the first family to convert to Christianity in Akleshpur.
Soon after this, Gangamma and her family began to be persecuted. After noticing that the family was regularly attending church, approximately 100 Hindu radicals barged into Gangamma’s house on December 23. They assaulted the family, tore down the family’s Christian calendar because it had Bible verses on it, and threw other household articles out of the house and onto the street.
The village leader intervened, telling Gangamma, “You either choose the village or you choose Jesus. The villagers think that no other religion should be practiced other than Hinduism in this village.”
Unfortunately, Gangamma chose to stay in the village because she felt she had no other options. Gangamma moved to Akleshpur several years ago after the death of her husband. With much difficulty, she built a house for herself and her family in the village. As a widow, she was afraid to leave the village and the house she built with her own hard-earned money. While meeting secretly with ICC, Gangamma confessed that during this difficult time of decision-making, her grandson was also kidnapped by Hindu radicals who were threatening to kill him unless the family abandoned Christianity. After three days, Gangamma decided to stay in the village and the Hindu radicals released her grandson.
For many of India’s rural Christians, it is difficult enough just to make ends meet. Now, with a new wave of persecution washing across India, Hindu radicals are taking advantage of the Christian community’s vulnerability, causing great misery for these believers. In hopes that the voices of the suffering will be heard, let us stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.