Religion has always been a very sensitive yet unavoidable topic in India. It is woven into the very tapestry of the country. An average Indian may have an acquaintance from almost every religious community in the country and may have never considered religious orientation as a condition of their relationships, but somehow, over the years the poison of religious nationalism has insidiously crept into even the most remote and far-flung villages of India. There was a time when the country could easily conceal the truth about the growing unrest between religious communities, but of late, the escalating intolerance towards religious minorities has put the country in the spot light. People across the globe have begun to ponder and even experience the hostilities of not being amongst the religious majority of the largest democracy in the world.

Over a month ago, the story of a man almost being killed by religious fanatics in Odisha came to light. Severely ailing from a sickness that took the lives of 3 of his young children, Kama Sodi is a sorry sight whose body is reduced to mere skin and bones! He lives with his wife and 2 younger children aged 5 and 3 respectively in the district of Malkangiri, Kodalmetla village and is no stranger to suffering, pain and agony. As if the couple was not distressed enough about loosing their little children, local religious goons made it even more difficult for them to survive, only because they had found a faith that made sense to them.

Kama had run out of options to find a cure for his sickness. He met Kosha Muchaki who pastors the little congregation which meets at his uncle’s home. Through him he converted to Christianity.

On the 11th of March 2020, at around 1pm in the afternoon, 10 people including Kama had gathered at Mala’s home to pray. During the meeting, a few religious fanatics who were under the influence of alcohol, barged into the house. They created a chaos, beating up their own neighbours and accusing them of converting people to Christianity. What was astonishing was that they were the same people who had pointed out Kama and Mala to the Church. When their rage died down, they warned the Christians to never gather to pray again.

That night, the Christians went home perplexed. What just happened? What had caused the sudden change of heart among their own neighbours? Little did they know about the diabolic scheme that would be executed the following day.

Kama Sodi woke up as usual the next morning. As he stepped outside his home, what he beheld, had suddenly gripped him with fear. His home was surrounded by the same fanatics that had attacked him the previous night along with a few more locals who had joined in. They were all wielding bamboo sticks and had a tractor trolley with them. A few of them ran towards Kama and began to beat him up with the bamboo sticks while the others rushed into Kama’s home and started taking out Kama’s household items, including the TV, utensils, furniture etc. and loading it onto the trolley of the tractor. All Kama’s family could do was to scream and yell for help. Sadly, the spectators were held captive by fear and did not interfere. A few men then drove the tractor around 3kms away to a piece of land which belongs to Kama and dumped all the items there.

Kama Sodi was beaten so mercilessly that fell to the ground, unconscious. He was repeatedly whacked with sticks on his head, back and legs. He was admitted with severe internal and external injuries into the Malkangiri BSS Government hospital,where he received treatment for almost a week.

When Pastor Kosha Muchaki was informed about the attack, he went to the Malkangiri Police station and lodged a complaint.The police soon addressed the matter. They went to the village and spoke to the people who were responsible for this crime. They were asked to stop harassing the Christians and return all the items that were taken out of Kama’s house.

“After all these weeks, Kama is still in terrible pain. Most of the items that were taken out of the house were brought back damaged or destroyed, but he is very sure about his Christian faith.” Said Pastor Kosha, in conversation with Persecution Relief. The Covid-19 nationwide lockdown has only added to their misery., The effects of the lockdown have taken a huge toll on them as the family has not yet recovered from the ordeal. Speaking to Persecution Relief, Kama said, “The fanatics are still threatening us, but where do we go? We have no other options!”

Is India aware of these incidents? Do we choose to ignore these atrocities? Yet there are many who claim that all is well on Indian soil and chose to live in complete oblivion and deliberate ignorance.

Shibu Thomas is Founder, Persecution Relief.


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