Christian boy severely injured in acid attack dies after 46 days in hospital

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 16-year-old Christian boy from India’s Bihar state, who suffered burns to 65% of his body in an acid attack by suspected Hindu nationalists last month, succumbed to his wounds in the hospital this week.

Nitish Kumar died at Apollo Hospital in Patna city on Sunday, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported Friday.

“The doctors have tried every possible way to revive Nitish,” a local pastor, who helped the family, was quoted as saying. “Every alternative day, the doctors gave one unit of blood and had regular dressing changed on almost the entire body. We hoped that he would bounce back to life, but we know God has His way and time.”

After Nitish Kumar was attacked, the family said Hindu nationalists were behind it because the boy was a leader in a local church and the area they live in had anti-Christian sentiments.

The boy was attacked with acid after he left his house in a village to go to the market in the early morning on Aug. 11.

Drenched, Nitish Kumar 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 attackers' 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 the teen's wounds, was quoted as saying.

The victim’s 17-year-old brother, Sanjeet Kumar, previously 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 were active in the church and participated in 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.”

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