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07/26/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to Morning Star News, police in India’s Uttarakhand state arrested and tortured a Christian pastor last month. Following the attack, the pastor and his family have been forced to flee 600 miles after continued harassment.

On June 13, police in Shyampur, located in the Haridwar District, arrested Pastor Sanjay Kumar Bharati, his wife, his three children, and several members of his church. According to Morning Star News, the police were acting on a complaint that Pastor Bharati was violating COVID-19 restrictions by holding a small prayer gathering.

After being taken to the Shyampur police station, officers began beating Pastor Bharati and questioning him about illegal religious conversions.

As soon as I was taken inside the police station, a policeman slapped me three or four times on my face and punched me in my stomach,” Pastor Bharati told Morning Star News. “He hurled curses and accused me of alluring people and converting them.

According to Morning Star News, police officers took Pastor Bharati to an inner room where they wiped him on his legs and feet with a leather belt.

Hell broke open on me as they mercilessly tortured me for 30 to 40 minutes,” Pastor Bharati told Morning Star News. “I begged them to spare me; repeatedly asked them, ‘What was my fault?’

Pastor Bharati reports that police interrogated him regarding illegal religious conversions, even though he was detained for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions. Police officers also demanded to know from where Pastor Bharati received funds to pay people to convert to Christianity.

Before releasing Pastor Bharati, police ordered him to leave the village where he and his family lived for the past 12 years. The officers warned that if they received one more complaint, they would arrest him and send him to jail.

On June 15, Pastor Bharati, his wife, and force church elders visited the District Superintendent of Police in Haridwar to submit a complaint against the officers who tortured Pastor Bharati. Since submitting this complaint, no action has been taken by police in Haridwar.

On July 6, Pastor Bharati and his family moved from Shyampur and relocated 650 miles away.

False accusations of forced religious conversions are often used by radical Hindu nationalists to harass Christians. In many cases, these false accusations are used to justify physical assaults. Across India attacks on Christians and their places of worship continue to be reported in greater number. The proliferation of anti-conversion laws, which provide legal cover for radicals, is among the reason for the increasing numbers of attacks.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].