Nearly two months after Hindu extremists in India humiliated, beat and forced Christians to praise a Hindu god, the host of the house church has yet to return to his home.
Ranjeet Kumar Gautam is still in hiding after more than 20 Hindu extremists in Chapar village, Sultanpur District, Uttar Pradesh state on Feb. 7 burst into his home, beat the 39 adults of the fellowship, kept them from medical care and stood outside the police station threatening to kill them if they filed a complaint.
“Nearly every day the attackers come and threaten my family, saying that if I register a complaint with police, they will kill me,” Gautam said. “My family is very scared.” House-church pastor Om Prakash said the hard-line Hindus kept the injured from getting medical are.
The brutality of the assault was so severe, the church members told Morning Star News, that they still tremble at the mention of it. Brandishing large wooden sticks, the assailants walked into the house at about 2 p.m. and began reviling and striking the Christians.
“They seized each worshipper – men and women – and beat us with wooden sticks, with their legs and fists,” Gautam told Mornning Star News. “They spared nobody except children.”
Members of the Thakur community who are considered Kshatriyas, the second highest in the Hindu caste hierarchy, they spoke derogatorily of the Christians, Dalits considered below Hindu caste. Many of the assailants belonged to the Bajrang Dal, Hindu extremist youth wing of the World Hindu Council (VHP).
“The Thakurs forced us to lick their feet with our tongues, threatening to assault us further if we did not comply,” Gautam said, visibly pained at the memory. “Eight of us did what they said, to save ourselves from their brutality. They forced us to say, ‘Jai Shri Ram [Hail, lord Ram],’ to which three Christians complied, but the rest of us refused and said that we would rather die.” Pastor Prakash said the hour-long attack included beatings that went on for more than half an hour.
“Every single Christian was surrounded by five or six men and, taking turns, they ruthlessly beat us,” he said. “It seemed that the ordeal will never come to an end, and that we will all get killed.” The 25 women present were also beaten, he said.
The attackers repeatedly slapped and punched a blind woman, 35-year-old Gyanmati Nishad. Her face swollen, she had to be hospitalized, Gautam said. Mukesh Kumar, 26, a resident of Dadupur village 20 miles away, was beaten, kicked and thrown into a sewage opening twice, he said.
“In their barbarousness, they threw Mukesh into the manhole that was filled with human excrement, and when he struggled to escape, they pulled him back and threw him in again,” Gautam said. “Then they pulled him up and started to kick him. They tossed him among each, using him like a football with their feet. As a result of the brutal assault, blood began to ooze out of Mukesh’s ears and eyes.” The assailants also broke musical instruments and furniture and tore up Bibles.
Targeted for planting churches in Chapar and nearby Tarahi and Shivgarh, Pastor Prakash sustained injuries to his head, hip, shoulder and ribs and still struggles to bend or work, he said. Since the attack, he has not been able to lead services at any of the fellowships.
Though fearful, some of the Christians want to meet for worship again. “Many of them insist on attending prayers again despite threats, saying that they would die but not leave the Lord who healed them,” Pastor Prakash said. “They say that no amount of fear or beating will be able to remove Christ from their hearts.”
Police have told the Christians to register the church if they want to worship again and warned them not to meet in homes, he said.
“It is their government at the [Uttar Pradesh] state and the [federal] center,” Pastor Prakash said. “They can charge us falsely and target us whenever they like. Most of us fear the repercussions of reporting the attack to the police, knowing fully well that the extremists will entrap us in something bigger and deadlier, and we will end up fighting lawsuits the rest of our lives.”
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.