Bhopal, May 12, 2016: In the second such incident in a fortnight, 16 Christians, including women and children, fled a village in eastern India after neighbors allegedly beat them for refusing to accept Hinduism.
Naresh Bhuiya, one of those who fled their village in Jharkhand state’s Palamu district, said they were from the oppressed Dailt caste but have been Christians for the past nine years.
The trouble started May 8, said Bhuiya, when they were summoned to a village meeting and were asked to explain why they couldn’t practice Hinduism.
“They wanted us to shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’ to hail the Hindu god Ram,” Bhuiya said. “When we refused, they tied our legs and hands and beat us mercilessly,” he said.
This incident follows another episode in neighboring Chhattisgarh state on April 29 where six Christian families from the Gond tribal group fled their village after neighbors allegedly threatened to kill them if they didn’t convert to Hinduism.
Police officer D. K. Singh, in-charge of Ramgarh police station, which covers the area of the latest incident said there was some dispute in the village over donations. Police settled the dispute through dialogue and no police complaints exists on the issue.
Singh people in the interior villages such as this one live in abject poverty and not in a position to “fight legal cases…therefore, whenever any complaint comes we usually settle it out through dialogue and we have done the same in this case too.”
He said he “not ware of people fleeing” attack but “it will be investigated,” he said.
The Christian are now under the care of Pentecostal Pastor Vijay Das in Daltonganj, the district headquarters, which is some 40 kilometers away form the village by road.
“They reached my place in a very pitiable condition on Monday,” after walking several kilometers through the forest without proper food and water, he told ucanews.com.
“We are taking care of their basic needs but still they are under the trauma of the violence unleashed on them,” he said.
Pastor Das, like several other Christian leaders, termed the attack as the outcome of the ongoing violence Christians in the state orchestrated by Hindu groups who work to make India a Hindu theocratic nation. They also say these attacks have been increasing ever since a Hindu nationalist government came to power in New Delhi some two years ago.
“We have witnessed three attacks against Christians including murder of a priest in this month alone in Jharkhand,” laments Thomson Thomas, the national coordinator of the Persecution Relief.
He said Christian missioners are working to end the crippling poverty of dalit and tribal people in the interior villages of India, where even the government machinery cannot reach.
But Hindu fanatic groups are projecting such works as a “faade for conversion. This approach will not help anyone other than pushing the poor further backward,” Thomas said.