Announcement of Anti-Conversion Law Sparks Anti-Christian Violence in Northern India
By ICC’s India Correspondent
08/30/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In June, the Chief Minister of Haryana, Manoharlal Kattar, announced that his government would soon propose a bill to regulate religious conversions. As feared by many Christians, this announcement emboldened radical Hindu nationalists within Haryana and led to several attacks on Christians, including an incident in which four Christian women were hospitalized.
On August 11, a mob of radical Hindu nationalists brutally attacked four Christian women who had gathered for a prayer meeting in Sarurpur village, located on Faridabad’s outskirts. According to local sources, Pastor Rajesh Gupta, who serves as a church planter in the area, was visiting Sarupur village with his wife and daughter when the attack happened.
As Pastor Rajesh and his family were visiting a Christian home, a mob of ten radicals approached. Sensing danger, Pastor Rajesh fled. Enraged, the radicals went into the Christian house and brutally beat the four Christian women gathered, including Pastor Rajesh’s wife and daughter.
“Before I even realized what was happening, two people forced themselves into the house and started to hit my mother with iron rods,” Julie, the 23-year-old daughter of Pastor Rajesh, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The goons kept hitting my mother while she was bleeding all over her body. I tried to protect her, but the attackers struck me with the rod, and I fell unconscious.”
After beating the Christian women in the house, the radicals dragged their victims into the street, where more people reportedly joined in the attack.
As a result, the four Christian women were hospitalized at Life Hospital in Faridabad with serious injuries. Sangeeta Gupta, Pastor Rajesh’s wife, sustained multiple injuries, including a leg fracture and internal injuries to the abdomen. Sushma, another Christian woman who had gathered in the house, suffered a severe head injury after being hit either with an iron rod or a wooden club.
“I only gained consciousness in the hospital,” Julie told ICC. “I realized that the other women, including my mother, were lying in nearby hospital beds, and my mother was in critical condition.”
“Our lives are in danger,” Pastor Rajesh told ICC. “Pursuing legal justice in this incident will create more enemies from the Hindu radicals. This will jeopardize the safety of our family, which might push us into an even more vulnerable situation.”
“We want to live here and do God’s work shepherding 60 odd believers,” Pastor Rajesh continued. “All I need is the restoration of health for my wife and daughter.”
“Since BJP came to power in Haryana, I have stopped giving baptisms,” another pastor from Haryana, who requested to remain anonymous, told ICC. “It is not that I have lost my passion. I care about the safety of new believers. Hearing of other states where the BJP is ruling and where anti-conversion laws are in place, the consequences of conversion are huge. Sometimes there is even a threat to the lives of new believers.”
Another pastor from Haryana, who was attacked in June, declined to speak with ICC. He claimed that he could not talk about religious persecution because his phone has been tapped, and radical Hindu nationalists closely watch him. According to this pastor, he thinks that the current situation has emerged due to the government’s intention to propose the anti-conversion law.
Among Haryana’s Christians, there is a concern that the hostile situation will grow worse if the anti-conversion law is proposed and passed. As seen in other states, radical Hindu nationalists often used false accusations of forced conversion to harass Christian leaders and justify anti-Christian violence. If an anti-conversion law is passed in Haryana, this will likely be true for the state’s Christian community.