On the 5th of May, a group of Christians namely *Ramu, *Manu and 7 others, including women, were mercilessly beaten up by a group of religious fanatics at a village in the Bastar District of the Indian State of Chhattisgarh. Why? Because they refused to forsake Christianity. Narrating this incident to Persecution Relief, *Ramu said that for a while now, the group of fanatics have been tormenting the 5 Christian families that live in this village and threatening to grab their property, livestock, home and kick them out of the village if they refused to listen to them.
On the 4th of May a few villagers who deliberately wanted to harassc *Ramu conducted a ritual on his field in spite of their own field being nearby. When Ramu went to his field that day, he found birds sacrificed along with other ritualistic articles lying around. He immediately confronted the fanatics about it but they abused him in return and told him that they would take him to task with the village council.
The very next day during the afternoon, the village council called a meeting. They summoned all the 5 Christian families to the meeting. Around 50-60 people had gathered together at one place, going against the Government’s orders of not gathering in groups of more than 4 people, in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The Village council, whose minds were already instigated by the group of fanatics, told the Christian families to return to their gods and goddesses and turn away from Christianity or choose to leave the village. Being of sound mind and exercising their right to freely believe a faith that made sense to them, Ramu and the other Christian families refused to give into their demands. Enraged at their response, the group of around 20-25 angry religious fanatics ganged up and attacked the Christian families in the presence of the village council while the rest of the crowd turned into mere spectators. No one came forward to help!
The families were at the mercy of the raging mob. They scattered to save themselves from the rain of blows and constant kicks that engulfed them. Stones were thrown at them from all directions and sticks were used to mercilessly beat them. Satisfied with the physical assault that they had delivered, the fanatics left the horrific scene, followed by the rest of the village council, leaving the families to fend for themselves, battered and bruised on the floor.
One of the injured men managed to dial 108 and call for an ambulance which promptly arrived. A total of 9 people were assaulted, while 7 were rushed to the local government hospital for treatment, many of whom were women. Ramu was treated for wounds that he sustained on his body while Manu had to be hospitalized for 3 days because of the extent of his injuries. Sadly, 3 families have fled their village from fear of being attacked again. They have left inheritance, property, livestock, homes and more, all because they did not have the freedom to follow the faith of their choice.
The least Ramu could do was to make a complaint at the local police station and hope for justice and protection if his assailants strike back. He and Manu have not yet recovered from the brutal attack, the memories of which will haunt the families for a long time to come.
Religious persecution is just one of the many masks used to satisfy greed in terms of illegally acquiring another’s property, inheritance and belongings. Land grabbing has become very prevalent today, given the current situation of religious intolerance. Millions living in villages, helpless and vulnerable people who cannot fend for themselves, fall victim to it. The quest for power and control, propel self-centred politicians and authorities to operate under the cover of communal disharmony and religious persecution. Dig deeper and you will find religious minority groups who make up a meagre percentage of the rural population, many of whom are left to fend for themselves. Scores of Christians have fled for their lives, succumbing under tremendous torture and persecution, leaving behind inheritance and everything that they ever lived for. Where do they go and who is going to help them?
The law of the land has been compiled with the best interest of the country in mind. It has the power to bring peace and well-being if revered and adhered to. In this case, section 144 of the IPC was completely disregarded. It states that 5 or more people cannot gather in one place, and if caught, the accused can be booked for rioting. Moreover, preventing a person from practicing and propagating the religion of his/her choice, challenges the secular status of India. Unfortunately, authorities, leaders and politicians have twisted and turned the constitution of the country, to fit their bill, use it for their benefit and at their convenience.
Our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a recent address regarded the constitution of India as his ‘Religion’. How should India translate this statement? How do we convince ourselves that he is upholding our constitution with utmost priority and reverence when we regularly hear about the increasingly horrific atrocities that surround the massive issue of religious persecution?
Shibu Thomas. Founder, Persecution Relief