A Christian pastor in northern India was forced to sign papers renouncing all religious activity — including sharing the Gospel or holding worship in his home — after a police officer threatened to file false charges against him and his teenage son.
A house church pastor identified only as Pastor Sugriv told Morning Star News that the threats by police in Uttar Pradesh state came after his son, 19-year-old Pawan Kumar, asked intoxicated Hindu extremists to stop making offensive comments about Christianity outside their home in Tarkulwa village, Maharajganj District.
“The officers at Shyam Deurwa police station joined hands with the assailants and forced us to sign a document vowing that we would never conduct prayers in our home, and that we would not share the Gospel with anyone,” he said. “I was forced to sign it. What kind of justice is this?”
The night of the first incident, drunk Hindu extremists reportedly shouted “Hallelujah, hallelujah” outside the Christians’ home. Though police initially ordered the Hindus to stop harassing the pastor and his family, they returned the next night, shouting obscenities.
Once again, the Christians informed police of the incident: “We had no other option but to inform the police,” Sugriv said. “It is not safe for us to have these drunkards come by whenever they want and start picking fights with us, shouting at the top of their lungs. We have women in our house, and it was beyond what we could tolerate.”
This time, two police officers came to the Christians’ home and asked the pastor's son to show them where the accused lived.
“We thought they came to take action against them for our safety and allowed our son to go with them to show their homes,” he said. “We had waited very long for our child to return, and someone passing by informed us that police had taken him into custody.”
At the station, police threatened to charge the pastor with sexual harassment — based on false accusations presented by a Hindu extremist — and frame his son “in such a case that he will be behind the bars for many, many years.”
As a condition for his son’s release, the officers forced Sugriv to sign a document vowing that they would never practice their faith in their home or talk about Christ with anyone, he said.
Shyam Deurwa Police Inspector Vijay Singh denied that the document the pastor signed violated India’s religious freedoms, saying it prohibited only fraudulent conversion.
“Villagers have been opposing them since they have been propagating Christianity in the area, so I had only taken their signatures on a document vowing that they will not forcefully convert or allure anyone to convert,” Singh told Morning Star News.
Attacks on Christians in India have been on the rise since Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took office as prime minister in 2014.
In a recent report, Persecution Relief, an organization that aims to protect the right to worship guaranteed by India's Constitution, revealed that hate crimes against Christians had risen by an alarming 41%.
It records 293 cases of hate crimes against Christians, including five rapes and six murders, compared to 208 incidents last year. The majority of the incidents took place in Uttar Pradesh state, where believers make up just 0.18% of the population.
In March, Christians in Uttar Pradesh were falsely accused of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity and were subsequently brutally beaten by a drunken police officer who then ordered them to pose like Christ on the cross.
In August, a pastor was attacked and brutally beaten by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists as he returned home from a prayer meeting in Bikampur village, located in the Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh.
Christian rights activist Dinanath Jaiswar from the advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom International said that police in Uttar Pradesh have “time and again unleashed their anger against minorities.”
“It appears the Hindu extremist groups are closely working with the police officers to target Christian worship,” he said.
India is ranked No. 10 on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. The group notes that Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.