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Indian Left party demands action on anti-Christian attacks

Communist party delegation reports ‘unimaginable torture of victims,’ especially women, in Chhattisgarh
The inside of Sacred Heart Church in Narayanpur district of India’s Chhattisgarh state, which was attacked by a violent mob on Jan. 2

The inside of Sacred Heart Church in Narayanpur district of India’s Chhattisgarh state, which was attacked by a violent mob on Jan. 2. (Photo: supplied)

Published: January 25, 2023 12:15 PM GMT
Updated: January 25, 2023 12:17 PM GMT

The attack on Christians in central India is part of a political agenda and not linked to religious conversion, says a communist party delegation after visiting the violence-hit areas of Chhattisgarh state.

Not a single case of forcible religious conversion is reported in the central state, where Hindu nationalist mobs are using it as a handle to unleash violence against tribal Christians, the delegation said.

“The propaganda of forcible conversions is not borne out by facts. According to officials, there is not a single case of forcible conversion reported,” a delegation of the Communist Party of India-Maxist (CPI-M) stated in a memorandum to the state’s Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.

The memorandum said that there clearly seemed “a political agenda behind these attacks, given the schedule for elections to the state assembly later this year."

The CPI-M delegation led by Politburo member, Brinda Karat, visited the violence-hit areas of Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Kanker districts on Jan. 20-22, and met victims of the violence, besides police and district officials.

The delegation found “unimaginable torture of victims,” especially women who were “stripped and beaten up” in public and blamed the Congress government ruling Chhattisgarh for its inaction.

“There is extensive damage to homes, churches, belongings, and livelihood and yet there is not a single family or individual victim who has received any compensation nor has there been any effort to assess the damage caused,” the delegation said in its report.

Though government officials claimed to have resettled close to 1500 indigenous Christians in government-run refugee campuses, there were many others forced to seek accommodation in the houses of their relatives or seek shelter inside churches, the report said.

“Although assurances have been given for their safety by the administration, we met many families who have been forced to leave their homes again,” the report added.

The CPI-M cited an incident in Tembrugaon, where victims were returned in a government-organized vehicle but were not allowed to enter the village as they refused the demand made by fellow villagers to apply “tilak” (a Hindu ritual of marking the forehead with a fragrant paste)  symbolizing their homecoming.

“Since none of those in the vehicle agreed to such illegal conditions, they were not allowed to go to their homes,” the report mentioned.

In some villages, the visiting CPI-M team came across social boycotts of the cruelest kind being imposed on the indigenous Christians.

“There are numerous cases where Christian adivasis [indigenous people] are not allowed to touch the common water hand pumps and if they do, it is washed repeatedly to ‘purify’ it. In some villages, shopkeepers have been threatened not to sell anything to the Christians.  There is a virtual ban on giving them work. However, there is no concerted effort by the administration to prevent such blatantly illegal acts,” the report noted.

Shedding light on the cruelty against women, the report said several women, including those pregnant, were brutally beaten and “are traumatized and terrorized.”

“At least 11 women in village Ramvand were beaten badly. In a most terrible incident in this village a group of women, egged on by jeering men, partially stripped three women, lifted them with their legs forcibly parted and took them around, finally throwing them into thorny bushes,” the report said.

It further mentioned how a Class 9 student was abducted from her home by a mob in Almer village and dragged to the forest. She was saved by her courageous grandmother.

In yet another incident, the body of a Christian indigenous woman buried on her family’s private land was exhumed and later buried in a Christian cemetery. Her family members were assaulted while the police did nothing, the team said.

The CPI-M delegation accused leaders of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of instigating the mobs and perpetrating heinous acts of violence against Christians in Chhattisgarh.  

They told Baghel to “take the required steps to address the issues” afflicting the minority community.

The deteriorating law and order situation in Chhattisgarh is a matter of worry and concern for Christians who make up less than 2 percent of the state's close to 30 million people.

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