Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
Updated: March 15, 2021 06:19 AM GMT
Catholics pray during the Good Friday service at a church in East Delhi on April 14, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
Eight Christians were injured and hospitalized when Hindu radicals attacked them and accused them of religious conversion in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
More than 150 Christians were praying in a house church on March 8 in Dantewada district when the Hindus attacked them with axes, stones and wooden clubs, injuring several of them, local media reported.
“We heard on March 9 about the attack on Christians who belong to the Pentecostal church in Dantewada district. As of now the police have not filed a first information report because most of the time they try to solve the problem amicably,” Bishop Joseph Kollamparampil of Jagdalpur told UCA News on March 14.
“This is a communally sensitive area, so the administration tries to handle the situation carefully and avoid creating any communal tension in the area.
“There are several reasons Christians are attacked in that particular area and one of the main reasons is both the parties try to provoke each other. Both Christians and Hindus should respect each other to avoid the unnecessary situation.
“There are more than 70 denomination churches in the area and we have no control over them. We have a united Christian forum, a platform where all Christian leaders come and share their views and discuss things, and I hope this will help us clear our differences.”
According to media reports, a mob of 30, led by a local radical leader named Ando Guddi, attacked a house church where more than 150 Christians had gathered for worship on March 8. The mob claimed the Christians were involved in illegal religious conversions to justify their attack.
During the commotion many Christians were injured, including eight who sustained serious injuries and required hospitalization. The mob also burned a motorbike and several bicycles belonging to the Christians.
“There is an attempt by the local politicians to divide people on religious lines, and it is not the first such incident reported in this area,” a local Christian told International Christian Concern (ICC), a persecution watchdog.
“The police and the administration do not help the local Christians as they do not even file a first information report.”
Pastor Samson Bhagel, who has been leading congregations for the past 11 years and who was among the injured, told ICC the Christian community has been living in fear and insecurity.
Many critics say that attacks on minority groups have increased since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, .
Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.
Uttarakhand became the ninth state to enact a religious conversion law in 2018. The other states are Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
Such conversion laws require the person officiating an act of conversion to inform state officials a month ahead of the ceremony. It also criminalizes an act of conversion using fraud, force or allurement with jail terms and fines.
Chhattisgarh is India's most densely Hindu state with 98.3 percent of its 23 million people being Hindu. Muslims account for 1 percent, while Christians, mostly tribal people, account for 0.7 percent.