A 16-year-old Christian boy suffered burns over 60% of his body after an acid attack in eastern India’s Bihar state. The family says they suspect Hindu nationalists are behind it because the boy is a leader in a local church and the area they live in has anti-Christian sentiments.
The victim, identified as Nitish Kumar, was attacked with acid last week soon after he left his house in a village to go to the market early in the morning, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported Saturday.
Almost immediately after leaving the house, the boy was carried back by people as he screamed due to burns all over his body, the victim’s sister, Raja Davabi, was quoted as saying.
“It was a horrifying scene of my brother,” she said, “I started yelling and crying looking at my brother. He was in terrible pain at that point and all that I could do is to share the pain by wrapping him in my hands.”
The boy was taken to a nearby clinic for first aid treatment and then transported to a specialized burn unit in the state capital of Patna.
The attacker has not been identified but the victim’s family and the local Christian community suspect it is the work of anti-Christian activists in the village.
The family, which regularly holds Christian gatherings in their home, converted to Christianity two years ago after being delivered from an evil spirit, and the victim and his brother are active in the church and conduct daily prayer gatherings.
“I don’t understand why this happened to my son and who might have done it, we didn’t do any harm to anybody in our village or anywhere else. My heart pains when I see my son,” the victim’s father, Bhakil Das, was quoted as saying.
Christians make up about 2.5% of India’s population, while Hindus comprise 79.5%.
India ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the U.S. State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India stated in a report that it documented 145 cases of atrocities against Christians — three murders, 22 attacks on churches and 20 instances of ostracization or social boycott in rural areas — in the first half of 2021.
“The violence, detailed in the report, itself was vicious, widespread and ranged from murder to attacks on churches, false cases, police immunity and connivance, and the now normalized social exclusion or boycott which is becoming viral,” the report says.
Open Doors USA warns that since the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased.
The group reports that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”
“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a 'foreign faith' and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”