Christian boy who suffered burns to 65% of his body in anti-Christian attack has slim chance of survival

Christians meet near their rebuilt church in Kandhamal. In 2008, almost every church in the area was destroyed by Hindu nationalists.
Christians meet near their rebuilt church in Kandhamal. In 2008, almost every church in the area was destroyed by Hindu nationalists. | John Fredricks

A Christian boy who suffered burns to 65% of his body in an acid attack in eastern India’s Bihar state is in "very, very critical” condition and is unlikely to survive, according to the doctor treating him. The family said they suspect Hindu nationalists are behind the attack because the boy is a leader in a local church and the area they live in has anti-Christian sentiments.

The victim, identified as Nitish Kumar, was attacked with acid after he left his house in a village to go to the market in the early morning on Aug. 11. Now, Dr. K.N. Tiwari of the burn unit of Appolo Burn Hospital in Patna city said “his survival chances are low,” Morning Star News reported.

Drenched, Nitish initially thought they had mischievously thrown water on him, the victim was quoted as saying. “But soon my skin began to burn. The burning sensation increased with every passing second. I dropped the basket and ran toward my house [820 yards away] screaming and howling.”

The motorbike did not stop, and in his pain he couldn’t see its license plate, he added.

The acid burned 65% of his body, with 15% being deep burns, Sushma Sharma, a hospital volunteer treating Kumar, was quoted as saying.

Dr. Tiwari said Nitish will need skin grafting. “There is only one treatment for his condition, and that is skin grafting, but there is not enough skin left on his body to be used except for a socks-length portion on one of his feet and some portion of his chest. The little amount of skin left cannot cover the entire area of his body that is burned.”

The victim’s 17-year-old brother, Sanjeet Kumar, said: “A month before the attack, some extremists spread word in the village that they would expel all the people who follow the Christian faith from the village. We also heard about it, but it did not deter us from our faith. And suddenly this attack took place.”

In December, Hindu extremists blocked the roads going to Sunday services and questioned Christians, he said. “They would question everybody as to why do they go for prayer. They used to ask us if we had been given money or other allurement to attend the meetings, or were we forced to do so. So all of us clarified that nobody asks us to come to church. We all go to church of our own will, and we go there for the Lord.”

The family, which regularly holds Christian gatherings in their home, converted to Christianity two years ago after being delivered from an evil spirit, and the victim and his brother are active in the church and conduct daily prayer gatherings.

Christians make up about 2.5% of India’s population, while Hindus comprise 79.5%.

India ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the U.S. State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.

Open Doors USA warns that since the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased.

The group reports that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”

“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a 'foreign faith' and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”

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