Last month, two Christian pastors and a member of their church in India were beaten with cricket bats by a mob of up to 60 Hindus, then forcibly dragged to a police station, where the mob filed charges against the trio for allegedly proselytizing.
The Barnabas Fund, a charity dedicated to aiding Christians in areas of high risk for persecution, tells the story of Pastor Bharat Kumar Wadhwani, Pastor Vijay Paul, and Moses Edward, who had gathered in the home of another Christian friend, Ravi Ahirwar. “They accused us of luring innocent Hindus with money and benefits and converting them. They threatened us and told us not to pray or to meet fellow Christians,” Pastor Wadhwani told Barnabas.
The altercation began when members of the Hindu Dharam Sena, an extremist advocacy group, approached the Christians in their homes. “The Hindu Dharam Sena leader, Yogesh Agrawal, came and started to question me and it was then that the mob began to assault us physically and one of them hit my face with his fist breaking my spectacles; he punched my eye,” Wadhwani said.
Christian Daily adds that the men were beaten with cricket bats and their cars destroyed before being forcibly dragged to a police station. There, the group filed charges against the men for allegedly forcibly attempting to convert Hindus to Christianity by meeting in private to discuss their faith. There is no evidence any Hindu worshippers were present during their meeting in Ahirwar’s home.
As the mob did not fit in the police station, most of the group spent hours outside the police station shouting invective at the men.
The men were charged with violating “sections 295A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code: ‘Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’ (295A) and ‘Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention’ (34),” or conspiracy. Wadhwani told Barnabas that police treated the group politely following the attack, however. The men escaped with considerable bodily injuries, including a large gash on one of the men’s eyes.
The incident is the latest in a string of attacks on Christians in India and religious attacks in general. Hindus have not been spared the wrath of Muslim neighbors and vice versa, while Christians have been attacked by both Muslims and Hindus, but there is no evidence of Christian attacks on groups of other faiths.
In February, a mob of an estimated 35 people attacked a priest and three Catholic believers in southern India. The priest, Father Jose Kannumkuzhy, was beaten so severely he remained unconscious for days. A month before this incident, a group of 12 people was arrested for converting to Christianity, not attempted conversion of others, in Madhya Pradesh, where the most recent attack occurred.
In May 2015, Madhya Pradesh Hindu groups committed five attacks on Christian churches and home prayer locations in five days. Police found no evidence of a triggering event prefacing these attacks.
2015 also saw multiple incidents of vandalism of Christian churches and landmarks which did not result in injury, only destruction of property.
In addition to targeting Christians, Hindu mobs have rioted and attacked Muslims following rumors that the Muslims in question may have eaten beef. Cows are sacred to Hindus, and the killing of a cow is a cardinal sin. In October 2015, a mob of 500 people in Uttar Pradesh beat two Muslim beef-eating suspects and burned down 12 Muslim-owned shops in their neighborhood.
Conversely, in January, a group of Muslims set a teenager on fire after asking him whether he was Hindu. The boy said yes.
That same month, a Muslim bomb burned 30 cars, set a moving bus on fire, and attacked police, injuring more than a dozen, after a Hindu leader referred to Mohammed as “the world’s first homosexual.”