At least six Christians in India's Odisha state were badly injured and had to be taken to a local hospital when Hindu extremists recently attacked and burned down a Christian home over the fact that a deceased Christian child was buried inside the village.
World Watch Monitor reports that tensions arose late last month in the town of Tangaguada in the Malkangiri district, where three resident Christian families are outnumbered by the 35 Hindu families.
The Hindus in the town were reportedly up in arms when one of the Christian families tried to bury their 2-year-old daughter on the land that they own inside the village.
The Hindus demanded that the family bury their beloved daughter outside of the village. However, the family maintained that it was their right to bury their child on their land.
According to sources who spoke with the persecution news outlet, the Hindus eventually allowed the family to bury their daughter on the land only after the family paid the equivalent of $80.
But not even a day passed after the burial before a group of about 30 radical Hindu extremists marched to the Christian family's home and set it on fire on the night of Feb. 27.
In addition to setting the home on fire, the extremists beat up the father, Sukra Markhami, and the 12-year-old daughter, Savitha, and left them unconscious. Savitha Markhami reportedly suffered a critical head injury.
According to the unnamed source familiar with the situation, other Christian families came to the aid of their fellow Christians but were also attacked by the radicals.
Fifty-two-year-old Christian Jaga Markhami suffered a broken hand, while 45-year-old neighbor Danga Markhami broke his leg. Two other Christians were injured, according to World Watch Monitor.
A total of six Christians needed to be taken to a nearby hospital and Sukra Markhami's house was completely burned downed to the ground.
"In [Odisha] there is still hatred and discrimination against Christians, and there are failings to meet the legitimate needs of Christian minorities," Catholic priest Manoj Kumar Nayak told the Vatican's Fides news agency.
The Christian families were helped by Pastor Remo Paul in filing a report with local police, according to the interdenominational watchdog charity Persecution Relief.
The police reportedly tried to mediate a "peace agreement" between the Hindus and Christians on March 1. However, the charges against the perpetrators still stand.
Persecution Relief is assisting the families in their medical costs and relocation expenses. The charity also reports that a local pastor was called to rescue the Christians from the village
The attack on the Christian community comes as India ranks as the 11th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2018 World Watch List.
"Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, they are experiencing increased persecution. These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity and employ violence to this end," an Open Doors fact sheet on India states. "Usually, converts to Christianity experience the worst persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism. Campaigns known as Ghar Wapsi (or 'homecoming') are used to get Christians to denounce their newfound faith. These converts are often physically assaulted and sometimes killed for refusing to deny Christ."
"The government continues to look away when religious minorities are attacked, indicating that violence may continue to increase in the coming years," the fact sheet added.
Last month, the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India released an annual report that shows that last year was the most traumatic year for Christians in India since 2007-2008.
The report states that in 2017, there were 351 cases of violence against Christians. About 100 Christians were killed and thousands of homes were burned.
"Most cases go unreported either because the victim is terrified or the police, especially in the northern states, just turn a blind eye and refuse to record the mandatory First Information Report," the report reads.