An unwarranted attack on a 72-year-old Christian man influenced by a hate speech made on Facebook was reported to Persecution Relief by a source who wishes to stay anonymous. The following is the information we received.

*Anand is a faithful leader at our church and conducts weekly cell group meetings at different homes. He is 72 years old and also drives a rickshaw. Anand stacks up bibles in a custom-made rack which is fitted near the passenger seat.

Passengers are free to not just read the Bibles but also take one for themselves if they choose to. Whenever his rickshaw wasn’t hired, he would stop and hand out Bibles to interested passers-by.

On the 28th of July 2020, he was attacked by two other rickshaw drivers while he was distributing Bibles near the Nimhans Hospital in Bangalore, a city in the Indian state of Karnataka.

The whole incident was video graphed and uploaded on the Facebook page of a Hindu leader named Puneet. In his post accompanying the video, he has urged the masses to oppose Christians who are found distributing Christian literature.

This is what Puneet had to say concerning the attack:

“I received a call from an auto driver named Srinivas who had said that he saw a person propagating their faith by saying God can heal your sickness and distributing bibles in front of Nimans hospital. I am proud of this Srinivas who stopped him along with another auto driver. Wherever you see such people do not fear, question them! You are a Hindu; you have every right to question them. We have given you the video of his auto and the auto number. Where ever you see him, question him. Do not show any mercy. I am not able to come to you immediately Srinivas, as I am on Corona duty. I salute you Srinivas. Please see the video.”

Two days after the post was shared, Anand set out as usual in his auto rickshaw. Auto drivers who recognized him, began to rebuke and harass the 72-year-old. Being at the receiving end, Anand quietly left the spot but to his disbelief, the other drivers followed him in their auto rickshaws.

The group of drivers followed after Anand, shouting slogans and hounded him for about a kilometre. Shocked by what had happened, the elderly Anand drove straight home. His family have advised him not to venture out until the matter settles.

Anand comes from a very poor family. He is a hardworking man and earns his livelihood by driving his auto rickshaw. He is the only bread winner of the family. After this ordeal, his income has stopped and the family is facing a very tough time.

Anand not only ministers in his Auto rickshaw but is also a part of an ‘Auto Rickshaw ministry’. About fifty auto drivers gather and pray together every week. All their rickshaws have a custom-made Bible rack installed, free for any passenger to read or take away.

Anand is based in Bangalore. Once a month he visits his home town near Trichy. He stays there for a couple of days with his children and also goes from house to house, distributing New Testament Bibles, after which he gathers people from the community to pray together during the evening.

Social Media has now become the latest and most dangerous stage for the propagation of religious bigotry in India. With its effortless ability to reach the masses both educated and ignorant, urban and rural, platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp have the Nation at their fingertips, instead of vice versa.

‘Wannabe fanatics’ desperately longing to be hailed by the ‘Saffron-Brigade’ as true patriots or vying for ‘A-minute-of viral glory’ are often behind the hate-visuals and posts that are regularly uploaded on the internet.

At present, no single authority seems to be taking any responsibility concerning this disastrous and viral boom. There’s no telling when this mud-slinging will end. It is only making matters worse for the religious minorities in the country.

This is the 25th case of Christian persecution in Karnataka recorded by Persecution Relief since January 2020.

In the first 7 months of 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


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