Hindu mobs in Chhattisgarh have disrupted a prayer service and threatened two Christian pastors in the space of three days for alleged religious conversion.
In the first incident on July 4, Pastor Firoz Bagh was conducting a prayer service at his house in Raipur, the state capital, when a Hindu mob surrounded the house and started shouting anti-Christian slogans, The Union of Catholic Asian News agency reported.
Police took the pastor into custody but released him after a few hours after the intervention of church leaders.
In the second incident, Wednesday, Pastor Ramesh Manikpur of Sarora Gogaon was resting at his house in the evening when a Hindu group wrote a slogan hailing Hindu gods on his boundary wall.
“They accused me of religious conversion and even slapped my son. They were around 100 and passing through our lane in a religious procession,” Pastor Manikpur told the news agency.
Pastor Moses Logan, president of the Chhattisgarh State Christian Welfare Society said that they had faced similar situations in the state but things were brought under control after the intervention of the administration.
“I spoke with Pastor Bagh and he said he has to visit the police station every other day for the investigation. He is very much worried for his family and his faithful. I hope the investigation is over soon,” Logan said.
After police took Pastor Bagh to the police station, a mob even surrounded the police station and started shouting anti-Christian slogans and accusing him of forced conversions.
He went on to say: “It is matter of concern and worry for us as some fanatic group members take us for granted and don’t even hesitate to harass and attack us in the name of religious conversion, which is not true.”
Pastor Bagh told Asia News that he has been in the ministry for 20 years with the St. Thomas Evangelical Mission, a registered organisation.
“I have preached for the last two decades in a rented room and just two years ago I bought this house. Several local people come here for prayer services as it is open to all without any discrimination,” he said.
“My church members are very frightened and feel they are being targeted by extremists.”
When the Hindu nationalist BJP was in power in the state from 2003, it enacted the Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2006, which provides that anyone who wants to convert must seek permission from the district magistrate at least 30 days in advance.
The saffron party activists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading reconversion ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.
Christian leaders call on Government to stop attacks on minorities
The working committee of the All India Catholic Union (AICU), India’s oldest Catholic organisation, issued a press note on July 4 to express its concern over increasing anti-minority violence in India.
According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), the Christian leaders in India have called on the government to stop state and non-state actors from targeting the country’s religious minorities.
“Christian communities have seen a drastic increase of organized and systematic persecution against them with the intent of uprooting them,” the AICU said in its press note. The note went on to describe attacks on churches and clergy as well as the social ostracism of Christian communities.
“As the nation approaches 75 years of its independence from colonial rule, its religious and ethnic communities, its Dalits and women face a daunting challenge of safeguarding their human rights and civil liberties, enshrined in the constitution and in United Nations treaties,” the AICU said. “The complicity of police in targeted hate and violence, and the overall sense of impunity displayed by political groups and non-state actors and the use of enforcement agencies, have combined to totally mute all voices of dissent. Even plaintive cries for help, restitution and relief have gone unheard.”
Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took control of India’s federal government in 2014, attacks on religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, have steadily increased. Many blame the BJP-led government for fomenting a climate of religious intolerance that encourages religiously motivated violence and provide impunity for those attacking religious minorities.