India: Hindu extremists beat handicapped pastor for following 'foreign God'

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

Three Christians were brutally beaten by Hindu extremists angered by the believers’ acceptance of what they called a “foreign faith and “foreign God.” 

Pastor Ramnivas Kumar, who leads a church in Ranjitpur village, Bihar state, told Morning Star News that he and two other Christians were explaining the Gospel to two Hindu friends over tea at his house when they heard neighbors shouting outside the door. 

“They were hurling abuses at me, accusing me of accepting a foreign faith and following a foreign God,” Kumar told the outlet.

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When the pastor asked the Hindu extremists why they had intruded onto his property and were "hurling abuses" at him about his faith, they began beating him and the two other Christians who were at his house. 

Kumar, who has an artificial leg, was unable to sufficiently defend himself from the attacks. 

“They started beating us with steel rods and wooden sticks. Both the brothers received blows on their heads, and they were soon bleeding profusely,” the pastor said. “I was also hit and could not control the mob from striking the four guests who were visiting us.”

When asked by police to explain their actions, the assailants “very tactfully flipped the matter and told the police that they were worried that four persons forced their way into Ramnivas Kumar’s house, and that they had come in time to rescue him from daylight robbery,” the pastor recalled. 

“The police listened to their version but did not pay heed to us. Our pleas fell on deaf ears,” he said. 

The officers told Kumar that his four guests were “outsiders, and they could be killed if they [had] entered someone’s house to commit robbery.” After that, they arrested his two Christian guests based on the false accounts of their Hindu attackers. 

The Christians were jailed until representatives of Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India called the station chief and higher police officials in Bihar that night, urging them to take action against the Hindu assailants and not charge the innocent Christians. The two Christians were then released the next morning. 

With the assistance of ADF India, the pastor petitioned the superintendent of police and other higher police officials, as well as the Human Rights Commission, for help. Authorities informed him that the case would be heard before the sub-divisional officer on Sept. 13, he said.

Kumar is no stranger to persecution. The pastor was disowned by his own family for embracing Christianity and has been attacked five times before, three violently, during five years of ministry in impoverished Bihar state.

Five village men in contact with the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh have turned his fellow villagers against him, saying he has defiled the village by accepting Christianity and “attempting to spread a foreign faith,” he said.

“God knows that I cannot prevent them physically from attacking me,” Kumar said, adding that police have turned a blind eye to previous attacks.

Eight out of 29 states in India have adopted anti-conversion laws that seek to prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, another person through “forcible” or “fraudulent” means, or by “allurement” or “inducement.” 

However, such laws are often used by Hindu extremists as an excuse to harass Christians. 

A recent report from United Christian Forum in India, a Christian organization that advocates on behalf of Christians in India, found that attacks on Christians and their places of worship in India continued to escalate in both number and severity in the early months of 2020, with 27 violent incidents reported in March alone.

According to UCF, these attacks took place in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Goa.

A separate report from Persecution Relief, which tracks anti-Christian persecution and harassment in India, reported 293 cases of Christian persecution in the first half of the year. 

Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA notes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP’s rise to power in 2014 emboldened Hindu militant groups to India’s harass the country’s Christian minority. According to the CIA World Fact Book, about 80% of India's population is Hindu.

The country is ranked at No. 10 on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. 

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