The gloves are off now, Evangelical Christian prayer services attacked, pastors hauled up and questioned by the police, neighbours calling up the police and filing serious complaints, all happening in various small locations across the country. Is it the Hindu hardliners outrage against aggressive proselyting? Or is it stage one of a more ‘action packed’ campaign? As one observer said, the jackals are let loose to snap at the heels of the isolated sheep.
Sunday prayer meetings of various Christian groups were violently disrupted in at least 13 places in the state of Uttar Pradesh, neighbouring Uttarakhand, and other places, on October 3rd, in what appears to be a coordinated ploy of right wing groups to intimidate and harass Christians.
Over 200 unidentified men and women, vandalised a 35 year old House of Prayer in Roorkee at about 10 AM on Sunday morning.
Prio Sadhana Lanse, the pastor’s widow, who was leading the prayer service, told the police that some 200 men and women belonging to the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) youth wing armed with iron roads, barged into the church and destroyed chairs, tables, musical instruments.
“The frenzied mob, shouting slogans like ‘Vande mataram’ and ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, barged into the church, which is on the first floor of the building,” Lanse told the Wire. “They started beating our volunteers and the women attackers bashed up our womenfolk.”
The ordeal lasted 40 minutes and Rajat, a church volunteer, suffered serious head injuries. Lanse also said that the women present, including her daughter Pearl, were inappropriately touched by the attackers.
Akshi Chauhan, a woman member of the church said, “I saw that an aged man had forcibly hugged Pearl and she was struggling to free herself. When I went to rescue her (Pearl), an attacker asked me what I, being a Hindu, was doing in the church.” The attackers dragged Chauhan away by her hair and beat her.
An eyewitness, said that the attackers damaged the CCTV cameras fitted in the church premises before beginning their attack.
“The women miscreants attacked the womenfolk of the church and the men broke everything: table, chairs, inverters and photos kept in the church,” he said.
No arrests have been made and the police are trying to access the CCTV footage from nearby places to trace the culprits.
A senior police officer said that the culprits have been named in the FIR and police teams are tracking them. “Adequate security personnel have been deployed at the church premises and also at the residence of the complainant in Roorkee,” said the officer.
The church has been functional for over 35 years and after the death of pastor D.R. Lanse due to COVID-19 last year, his wife Sadhana organises the prayer meetings.
Reports of attacks on Sunday services from twelve other places where the BJP party is in power have come in .
In Jwalapur, Haridwar, Uttarakhand state , right-wing elements accompanied by police disrupted and threatened people attending a church service. Vipin Kumar is the pastor of this church. The incident did not cause any injuries.
On 3 October in Maharajganj, Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Durgesh Bharti was conducting a prayer meeting in Nasirabad village. Men claiming to be Hindus, entered used abusive language, threatened them, and called for policemen. The police came and took Pastor Durgesh into custody at Paniyara Police station.
Meanwhile, in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Prem Singh Chauhan was arrested by policemen and taken to the Badlapur Police Station on Sunday morning . There was a complaint of forceful conversion against him.
In Hasanpur Baru village, District Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Suraj Pal was informed by the head of Sadabad Police Station that there was a complaint of forceful conversion against him and was called in for questioning. However, post-interrogation, the pastor was let go as the allegations were found to be baseless.
In the village of Chak Gordhan, Bijanaur, Uttar Pradesh, local Pastor Dinesh after concluding a Sunday prayer was on his way home. He was stopped by two policemen on the way and questioned as to where he was coming from. Seeing the Bible and oter religious items with the pastor, the policemen ordered him to report at the local police station the next day.
In Maharajganj, Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Shrinivas Prasad’s prayer meeting was disrupted by anti-Christian elements. The miscreants allegedly physically assaulted a Christian girl during their ‘protest’.
In Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Nandu Nathaniel and his wife were arrested under sections of the UP anti-conversion law and other sections of the Indian Penal Code. The police took action on a complaint from a neighbour who lived next door to prayer house.
In the village Kusumi, Komakhan Police station, Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh, the same prayer house was attacked twice by the locals with right wing links. One in the morning and another later in the afternoon as per information from Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. The villagers entered and vandalized a house church and slapped a 12-year-old boy inside the church.
In Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, Pastor Santosh Rao was summoned to the Charoda Bhilai GRP police station. The police informed him that he was accused of performing a religious conversion. However, the pastor was released after he was questioned.
Madhya Pradesh and Beyond
In Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, right-wing extremists disrupted Christian worship and accused Christians of converting people to Christianity. An evangelist named Prerit was leading the prayer meeting.
In Karnal, Haryana, a Christian woman, Kanika, and about 25 to 30 other Christians were attacked by members of a right-wing group during a Sunday prayer service. The home where Christians were praying was also vandalized.
In Asola Fatehpur Beri, New Delhi, twelve men entered Pastor Santosh Dan’s home and threatened him for sharing the Gospel. They accused the pastor of trying to convert people through allurement. A video of him was made and he was warned not to let any Hindu into his home for any reason.