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By ICC’s India Correspondent

09/08/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “Leave Jesus or leave the village,” is the slogan of Hindu hardline groups in Chhattisgarh’s Kankher District. There is a growing fear among the region’s Christians who have suffered more than 20 attacks in the last three months. These attacks have displaced many Christians who are now forced to live in temporary shelters following the destruction of their homes and household belongings. Others, unable to escape the violence, have been hospitalized for injuries sustained in physical attacks.

Prior to 2014, Chhattisgarh was already one of India’s most hostile regions toward Christians. Since the rise of the Modi-led BJP government, the hostility has grown into open violence against Christians. Hindu radicals feel emboldened by state and national BJP governments due to the Hindu nationalist ideology they share and the impunity they enjoy. In June 2014, only months after the BJP’s rise to power, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) pushed for village resolutions by local panchayat councils in over 50 villages in Bastar that ban non-Hindu religious prayers and propagation, essentially making Christianity illegal.

“I will not give up on Christ, even if they take my life,” Ramsue Komra, a victim from Benje village, told International Christian Concern (ICC). Benje was one of the first villages in Kankher District to pass the infamous panchayat resolutions banning non-Hindu religious propagation and prayers. “Although the future looks very dim, and the whole village seems to be against us for following Jesus and Christianity, we are ready to endure the hardships no matter what comes,” Ramsue continued.

Dhanuram Mandavi, a Christian from Kanagaom in Kankher District, had his house completely destroyed by Hindu radicals on June 25, 2017. Dhanuram told ICC, “More than 200 villagers under the leadership of Mr. Sather Doogga came to my house and they threatened us to give up our faith in Jesus. When I refused to renounce, that’s when they beat us, brutally destroyed our house, cow shed, crops, and bicycle.” This incident came after Dhanuram and his family had been threatened on prior occasions. “We are living under a tent made of plastic tarpaulin as our house was destroyed completely,” he continued. “We are worried about an uncertain future and our families.

Similarly, Jairam Korram and Manturam Potai, members of the only Christian families in the village of Telga, were brutally beaten on July 9, 2017. As a result of the beating, Jairam’s ribs were fractured and Manturam received an injury to the ear. The attackers broke the doors and front portions of the houses of the two Christian families in Telga and issued an ultimatum to these families: give up your Christian faith in one week’s time or leave the village.

In another incident in the village of Bokrabeda, Verendra Korram, another Christian, was driven out of the village with his wife and child by Hindu radicals. He is now taking shelter at another Christian’s home in another village. While some Christians are willing to endure such persecution for their faith, others are not. In Anthala Para, two Christian families converted to Hinduism because the Hindu villagers would not allow them to bury the dead body of their family member, Dinesh Ng, as Christians.

These incidents are only a few illustrations of the high price that Christians pay for their faith despite the full religious liberty promised in the constitution. Moving forward, these Christians will need allied voices to stand up for their rights and support to provide for their basic living needs.