By ICC’s India Correspondent
12/17/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Christians in India continue to face immense pressure at the hands of Hindu radical groups even as the country undertakes a debate regarding the rise of religious intolerance. Brutal acts of violence manifest this rise in religious intolerance as communal forces brazenly attack innocent Christians. From physical assaults to the destruction of Christian places of worship, the number and intensity of incidents of persecution in the Mahabubnagar District of India’s Telangana state have been exceptionally disturbing.
The Mahabubnagar District recorded the most incidents of Christian persecution in the state of Telangana last year, indicating a significant rise in persecution. The latest incident of persecution in the Mahabubnagar Disctrict occurred in Balanagar in October. Due to the fact that they attended a house prayer meeting, many Christians in Balanagar were severely beaten by Hindu radicals, including a four month pregnant woman whose child was killed as a result.
On October 12, around 7:30 p.m., a mob of Hindu radicals, led by a former village surpanch (village council president) Sati Srinivasulu, stormed into the house of Rajath Pradhan who was hosting a thanksgiving prayer in his family’s house with forty other Christians from neighborhood. Without warning or explanation, the radicals started beating the Christians, first targeting the pastor, punching him in the face and kicking him all over his body. The radicals then turned their attention to the Christian family hosting the prayer meeting.
The attackers grabbed whatever was available to hit the Christians. All of the forty Christians were severely beaten. Pastor Anil Kumar, a local pastor, was hit on the head with a bucket causing a deep cut and bleeding.
“I was punched in the face,” Pastor David, another local pastor, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The people encircled me and started kicking and punching me from all corners. Even today I have pain in my bones.”
Pradhan’s wife, Swapna, was four months pregnant and the attackers did not spare her from the beating. Swapna begged the radicals not to beat her, but she was pressed against a wall and was punched by the radicals until she collapsed. Later, Swapna was rushed to the hospital only to discover that her four month pregnancy was lost.
On the same night, the Christians went to the police station and filed an FIR (First Information Report) with the local police. The police filed a case against only seven of the radicals under misdemeanor offenses, took them into custody as a formality, and released them on bail on the same day.
“Balanagar is [a] stronghold for the RSS and all its affiliates,” Pastor Kumar told ICC. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to hold prayers in Christian homes. Even the Christians are afraid of hosting prayers in their homes.”
Rev. Ronald John, President of the Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee (TCJAC), told ICC, “Mahabubnagar District has experienced severe persecution in the last 11 months. Apart from countless minor incidents in the district, there have been reports of severe incidents where churches were torched or vandalized. In one case in Pebber, we saw one of the most shocking incidents of Hindu radicals mercilessly stamping children and women, causing serious injuries.”
“It is the Christian unity that can counter this systematic infiltration of hate by the communal forces in the district,” Rev. John added. “An unbiased government approach to this issue will build some confidence among the minorities.”
Christians in India continue to feel a great deal of insecurity due to the activities and rhetoric of Hindu hardliners who are openly active across the country. Attacks on Christians, like the attack on the prayer meeting in Balanagar and the lack of police action that followed, do little to inspire any hope that more tolerant times are on the horizon. Fortunately, the rise in religious intolerance has not gone unnoticed in India. The trend has sparked a debate among Indians as to what steps need to be taken to curb the spread of intolerance. The question now is whether India’s government, led by members of a Hindu nationalist party, will be able to do this.