Radical Hindu Mob Beats 150 Christians During Prayers; 20 Seriously Injured, Limbs Broken
A radical Hindu mob of some 35 people attacked a group of 150 Christians last week that had gathered together for prayer in the Pratapgarh District of India's Uttar Pradesh State, seriously injuring 20 of them.
International Christian Concern, which reports on violence believers face around the world, said that the assault happened on July 2 during a prayer meeting.
Ram Kumar Gautam, a 42-year-old Christian, who has been leading the prayer meetings in Raikashipur village for over five years, said that the Hindu radicals arrived in vehicles last week.
The attackers stormed the meeting hall and began beating people with wooden lathies and sticks, also firing a gun five times in the air in order to frighten the believers.
"I didn't sleep or eat properly for nearly a week now," Gautam told ICC, adding that besides the injured Christians, 10 motorcycles and other property were damaged.
"The attack on our prayer meeting last Monday has had devastating consequences. Many have serious injuries with their limbs being broken. Also, a false case was booked against six of us under stringent IPC sections."
Following the attack, the Hindu radicals were the ones to lodge criminal charges against six of the Christians, including Gautam, accusing them of converting people to the Christian faith.
Gautam stated, however, that the Christians peacefully and voluntarily hold their prayer meetings every Monday.
"We don't even talk about conversions, but I am accused of converting people. People come to our prayer and get healing. That's why people choose to regularly attend the prayers," he added.
William Stark, ICC's regional manager, said that there has been an upsurge of violence on Christians in India.
"Article 25 of India's constitution says that every individual has the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. For more than 150 Christians, this right was violated last Monday when Hindu radicals assaulted them for merely practicing their faith. India's authorities must bring these 35 Hindu radicals in Raikashipur to justice," Stark said.
"Until then, India's religious freedom rights will remain only words on paper and attacks on Christians and other religious minorities will continue to rise in both number and severity."
Other persecution watchdog groups, such as Open Doors USA, have warned that statements and threats made by Hindu leaders are only increasing concerns for Christians.
Back in May, Hindu leader Om Swami Maharaj publicly declared that Christians in the country must "leave now" or else be forcibly expelled.
"Leave, and leave now" was Maharaj's message, which has been gaining traction.
Open Doors USA CEO David Curry said that Hundu hardliners have been arguing that following Christianity is a form of terrorism.
"Essentially, what they're saying is it's 'un-Hindu' behavior ... 'un-Hindu' and 'un-Indian' behavior is anti-state, it's against the better needs of the state, so therefore it's terrorism," Curry noted late in June.
He urged President Narendra Modri's administration to push back against radicals and protect the 65 million or so Christians in the country.
"They're an important part of the community; they do a lot of charitable work, they add a lot to the fabric of life," Curry said.