Religious Radicals prevented a bereaved Christian family from burying their dead at a village in Jharkhand. They told the family that they could perform the last rites of 52-year-old *Vilas Singh, if it was done recognizing the religious beliefs of the village.
Persecution Relief spoke to the nephew of the deceased, *Ramu Singh. He explained that his late uncle was suffering from breathlessness and a blood disorder. “He died at around 3 am on the 4th of August” he added.
Ramu told Persecution Relief that the family have been faithful Christians for over 6 years and are members of a well-known local Church in that area. “3 men from the village opposed a Christian burial even though we refused to give into their demands” said Ramu.
The grieving family also approached the Village Head man concerning the issue. The village Head man who is also a Christian told the family that since they were Christians, they should be free to perform the last rites as per their faith and beliefs, as told to Persecution Relief.
“My aunt, Nita Devi was adamant about giving her husband a Christian burial, however, the stubborn fanatics took advantage of the vulnerable condition of the family and demanded that the burial be done as per their customs and beliefs” said Ramu.
Persecution Relief later learned that the family were eventually pressurized to conduct the last rites as per the fanatic’s demands, for the sake of peace. As if that were not unfortunate enough, Ramu further informed Persecution Relief that after the funeral the fanatics began to threaten them to participate in a ‘Ghar Wapsi’ ritual (return to Hindu faith).
“They told us to leave the village if we did not adhere to their threats and warned us not to conduct any more prayer meetings at our home” said an upset Ramu. “The family is currently grief-stricken and living in fear”, Ramu added.
Ramu comes from a family of farmers. He, however, teaches at a local school. “We thought that the fanatics would obey the orders of the village head man, hence we did not go to the Police. Instead, these men threatened us with impunity” Ramu said.
Since January 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 28 cases of Christian Persecution in Jharkhand alone, of which two cases involve ‘religiously motivated murders.’
Between January to July 2020, Persecution Relief has documented 9 religiously motivated hate crimes that have led to death, of which 2 involve rape. From January 2016 to June 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 2067 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India of which 293 cases were recorded in the first half of 2020 alone.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, ‘Countries of Particular Concern’(CPC) in its 2020 report. The US State Department ranked India’s persecution severity at “Tier 2” along with Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past seven years, India has risen from No. 31 to No. 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch List, ranking just behind Iran in persecution severity.
Shibu Thomas is founder of Persecution Relief