A mob of Hindu extremists in eastern India beat five Christians, shaved their heads and paraded them through the streets after falsely accusing the believers of cow slaughter.
In September, a mob of 60 to 70 extremists attacked seven Christians in Jharkhand’s Simdega district after a video of a man accusing them of eating and smuggling beef went viral on social media, Morning Star News reports. In the Hindu-majority country, both activities are illegal.
Two Christians managed to escape, but Pastor Raj Singh and four others were brutally beaten by the extremists, who then shaved their heads and tied garlands of old shoes and slippers around their necks. The mob paraded the Christians from one area of Bherikudar village, in Simdega District, to another.
Pastor Singh told the outlet that the man shaving his head cut his skull, which led to bleeding. That man later said, "This Christian should be grateful that I am only using the razor on his head and not on his neck,” according to the pastor.
The Hindu extremists ordered the Christians to chant “Jai Shri Ram (victory to god Ram).” When they did not comply, the extremists beat them with wooden sticks as well as "long wooden handles of large iron picks."
According to the Indian Express, the 37-year-old pastor and father-of-four converted from Hinduism to Christianity in 2016, angering local villagers. On the day of the assault, the Hindus had accused the pastor of “defaming” Hindus by becoming a Christian.
“While they were criticizing and cursing me in foul language, one of them said to another, ‘Why are you speaking so much – drag him out and chop him to pieces,’” the pastor recalled.
After dragging the pastor out of his home, the Hindus began assaulting him while chanting Hindu slogans, he said.
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“They pounced on me from every direction and beat me up with their hands, feet and wooden sticks,” he said. “My wife Roseline tried to stop the attackers from hitting me, but in the process, she was beaten and molested by the mob. She was also hit on her back and sustained internal injury.”
After parading the Christians through the streets of Kumhar, Mahato, Lohra, Girija, Sarna and Bahari areas, the mob brought them to the Bagicha area. There, they called police to allege that they had caught the Christians smuggling cow meat.
Police took the Christians into custody and then searched their homes, but found no evidence of the accusation.
“The police even checked our refrigerator, expecting to find cooked cow meat, but found nothing,” Singh said.
While the Christians were still in custody, Singh’s wife filed a police complaint against the assailants for wrongful restraint and assault, among other things.
Five of the Hindu assailants have been arrested. However, the pastor said his family is still “fear-struck” by the incident.
“We are worried as to how long can we guard our area like this? This is no solution to avoid attacks," he said.
With 21 cases of hate crimes and a murder in the first half of 2020, Jharkhand is rated as the fourth most “dangerous” state in India for Christians, according to Persecution Relief, which tracks anti-Christian persecution and harassment in India.
According to Shibu Thomas of Persecution Relief, Hindu extremists are increasingly using social media — especially Facebook — to persecute India’s Christian minority.
In these videos, Christians are often falsely accused of committing a crime before being attacked. Accusations of forced conversions are especially used against Christians in states such as Jharkhand, where strict anti-conversion laws are enforced.
Numerous reports have emerged of radical nationalists falsely accusing Christian leaders and evangelists of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault.
Local police often overlook this harassment due to the false accusation of forced conversions.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The outlet notes that the persecution of Christians has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.