Pastor and two other Christians attacked by extremists in Chhattisgarh, India

7 September 2021

A pastor and two other Christians were attacked inside a police station by radical Hindutva nationalists after being accused of carrying out unlawful religious conversions in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, India.

The latest attack by Hindutva extremists was reported on 5 September at Purani Basti police station. According to police, Pastor Harish Sahu was called to the police station over complaints that he was carrying out forced religious conversions.

A senior police officer confirmed that while attending the police station Pastor Sahu and the two other men, Prakash Masih and Chhattisgarh Christian Forum general secretary Ankush Bariyekar, were “manhandled and abused” by the extremists who followed them onto the premises.

Christian leaders submit a memorandum to Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister concerning persecution of Christians in the state [Image credit: UCA News]

A video of the assault was later posted on social media. After the incident, Bariyekar registered a complaint with police and several people were charged with rioting, obscene acts and songs, and voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation.

“It is a matter of concern for all of us as attacks on Christian people are reported very often here,” commented Victor Henry Thakur, a church leader in Raipur.

Hindutva fundamentalists “always blame us for religious conversion activities,” he continued, “but they don’t have any evidence to prove it. If there is any, let the law of the land take action. Who gave permission to [the extremists] to take the law into their own hands?”

Thakur said that 25 Christian leaders from various denominations recently met the state’s Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who assured them of protection of their rights.

The incident at the police station occurred a week after Pastor Kawalsingh Paraste was allegedly beaten up in his house in Polmi village, Kabirdham district, Chhattisgarh by a mob of over 100 extremists who accused him of unlawfully engaging in conversion activities.

Chhattisgarh is one of nine Indian states with anti-conversion laws that criminalise attempts to gain converts through force, fraud or allurement. Such laws, however, may result in spurious accusations against Christians and other religious minorities, as well as creating a climate of hostility, which can result in increased anti-Christian violence.

In July 2021 the Superintendent of Police in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh, issued instructions that police officers should keep “consistent watch” on the activities of Christians, accusing them of bribing and coercing people to convert to Christianity.

Chhattisgarh is one of India’s most densely Hindu state with more than 93 percent of its population being Hindu. Christians, mostly tribal people, account for less than two percent.

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