A group of drunken Hindu nationalists brutally beat a 26-year-old pastor in southern India who had been falsely accused of "forcibly" converting five families. It was an attempt to murder, the victim's wife says.
Pastor Banothu Sevya was in a coma for two days following the attack by masked men near Jamandlapalli village in Telangana state last month while he was returning from a prayer meeting on a motorcycle, Morning Star News reported Sunday.
"They pushed me off the bike and started beating me with sticks and kicking me," the pastor was quoted as saying. "My nose and ears were bleeding. I lost my consciousness."
Local rightwing Hindus had threatened and warned the pastor against "converting" tribal families in his village.
"Most Banjaras (aboriginals) say they get afflicted by evil spirits," the pastor explained. "They want them to be sent away. Some want to be healed, some need the Lord's help in their pursuits to get educated. I share the gospel and pray for them. We witnessed the Lord doing miracles among them. He does not forsake anyone who comes to Him."
"They attempted to murder him," the pastor's wife, Banothu Anusha, said of the of the Oct. 5 incident. Doctors told her he had blood clots in the cerebral area, brain coordination problems, injury to his eye and a damaged eardrum.
Anusha also said she had forgiven "the youth who attacked, and I am praying for them."
Sevya's church in Sri Raja Thanda, a tribal hamlet in Mahabubabad District, has 60 members.
Christian persecution has steeply risen in India since the Hindu rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014.
The first quarter of 2017 saw 248 incidents of persecution, and by the end of June, the number grew to 410, a recent report by Open Doors said, noting that a total of 441 incidents were reported in all of 2016.
"When the Christians are beaten by the extremists, they receive injuries mostly on their heads or their vital body parts," a local partner of Open Doors was quoted as saying in the report. "The assaulters do not care if the person dies in the attack. They know that they will not be punished because the government (and hence the judiciary) will take their side. In most of the cases the assaulters go unpunished."
The governing party is widely seen as the political arm of the umbrella Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, or National Volunteer Corps).
According to the report, the group's founder, M.S. Golwalkar, said, "The non-Hindu people in Hindustan (referring to India) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu religion, that is they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude toward this land and its age-long tradition but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen's rights."
In March, more than 100 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to India's interior minister, urging him to allow U.S.-based Christian child sponsorship organization Compassion International to continue its work in that country. The charity recently ended its programs in India amid an ongoing crackdown by the BJP government on nonprofits that receive foreign funds.
The Indian government's treatment of Compassion International has "caused serious concern within the U.S Congress," said the letter addressed to India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The Indian government alleged that Compassion was funding religious conversions.