A Christian woman who was eight months pregnant lost her baby after Hindu extremists attacked her, pushing her to the ground and kicking her stomach in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state.
Morning Star News reports that a group of Christians in Dewada village, Barwani District had organized a church service of thanksgiving and prayer ahead of the New Year. The service, planned from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., was open to all, and a celebration meal was planned for the afternoon of Jan. 1.
As the Christians prepared for the celebration, a mob of about 30 Hindu extremists carrying wooden batons and stones approached the home.
The assailants, believed to be affiliated with the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mother of the ruling party in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party, began beating the Christian men and sexually harassing the women, accusing them of carrying out forced conversions, according to the homeowner, Sardar Vaskale.
“Will you people never learn?” members of the mob said, according to Vaskale. “We will not let you conduct the prayer meeting, nor will we let you slaughter the goat; you are carrying out conversions.”
Hearing the commotion outside the home, Leela Bai, who was eight months pregnant, rushed outside. The mob reportedly pushed her down and kicked her stomach until she fell unconscious, and later that evening she miscarried on the way to a hospital.
“I fell down and landed on my stomach,” Bai, 25, said. “I got dizzy, and immediately someone from the mob came and started kicking my stomach.”
“My baby died in my womb after they pushed me down and kicked my stomach,” she said.
Bai’s husband, Rakesh Alawe, soon arrived and rushed her to the Thikri hospital two miles away, accompanied by some older Christian women.
“Leela’s pain intensified as we drove in the ambulance,” Alawe told Morning Star News.
Leela added, “Before we reached the hospital, I delivered the baby inside the ambulance, and he was a dead baby.”
Though Bai was weak from blood loss by the time she reached the hospital, authorities did not give her any medical treatment due to pressure from Hindu extremists, she and her husband said.
“The medical staff did not check me, nor did they give me any injection or medicines,” Bai told Morning Star News. “I just lay on the bed like a half-dead person for six or seven hours.”
“They did not treat me in the hospital, and when I asked a nursing staff to give me something for my weakness and dizziness, she shouted back at me and asked me to keep quiet,” she continued.
The hospital appears to have made no record of their visit, according to Morning Star News, and Sub-Divisional Officer of Police Ruprekha Yadav denied that the couple went to the Barwani District hospital.
In total, the Hindu extremists attacked eight Christians, including children, before calling the police to arrest the believers under Madhya Pradesh’s newly enacted “anti-conversion” law prohibiting fraudulent or forcible conversion.
When the Christians protested, the officer in charge of the police station said officers were under political pressure and thus could do nothing for them.
India’s anti-conversion laws — currently in nine states, with more considering adoption — are often used by nationalists to justify harassment and assault of Christians.
Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
John Prabhudoss, chairman of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, previously told The Christian Post that the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 and subsequent reelection in 2019 “brought about a sense of confidence among the Hindu radical party cadre that now they can attack Christians and other religious minorities with impunity and they do not have to worry about the law enforcement.”
A pastor who has planted churches in India for several decades told CP that the situation for believers is “steadily worsening” in the country.
“The situation in India is very sensitive right now,” he said, speaking under the condition of anonymity. “Many believers in India are facing very serious situations. [The government is] clamping down on the churches and passing new laws to incite hatred and anger against Christians. They feel threatened by us, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be a Christian there.”
Still, the pastor emphasized that despite persecution, “the Body of Christ in India is strong” and “will remain faithful, even in the face of opposition.”
India is ranked 10th on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a believer. The organization notes that Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam.
As a result, Christians accused of following a “foreign faith” are often physically attacked and sometimes killed, as well as under constant pressure from their family and community.