The body of a 46-year-old Pentecostal pastor, with his head severed, was found next to his vehicle that had been set on fire in the eastern state of Jharkhand. While extreme Marxists appear to have claimed responsibility, some local Christians believe the killers were mobilized by right-wing Hindus.
About two dozen gunmen, their "faces completely [covered] with a cloth bag," kidnapped Abraham Topno, the pastor of a congregation belonging to the Pentecostal Church of God, and later slit his throat in Ranchi District of Jharkhand on Tuesday night, according to his driver, Morning Star News reported.
A note found at the scene read, "Death to police spy." The deceased had been ministering in the area for about two decades.
Some eastern, central and southern parts of India have been witnessing insurgencies by Maoists, who kill anyone they suspect to be an informer to police.
Pastor Nuas Mundu, a senior pastor from a nearby church of the same denomination, suspects that Hindu nationalists were behind the murder.
"We know that he was a vibrant evangelist, a pioneer missionary, and we suspect that Hindu extremists are behind his killing," Mundu was quoted as saying. "Maoists will kill anybody for money, and if someone pays them, they will do the job for them."
However, some Christians think Maoists are increasingly targeting Christians.
Christian persecution, which includes violent attacks, destruction of Christian property and false accusations, has risen since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014.
A report by an evangelical group in India described 2017 as "one of the most traumatic for the Christian community" in 10 years.
Last year was the worst since 2007 and 2008, when about 100 Christians were killed and thousands of homes of Christians were burned down or destroyed in Orissa state's Kandhamal district, said the Annual Report on Hate Crimes against Christians in India in 2017, released by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.