Three Christian men in India beaten up and jailed on false charges

July 4, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

JailedMadhya Pradesh, June 30, 2016: Three Christians were severely beaten by a mob of 50–60 men, led by a group of Hindu extremists, on Sunday 19 June in Jabalpur, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Following the attack, the three victims were forcibly taken to the local police station, beaten along the way, and a case registered against them for attempts to forcibly convert Hindus to Christianity.

On the evening of the attack, Pastor Bharat Kumar Wadhwani, Pastor Vijay Paul and church member, Moses Edward, were visiting a Christian friend called Ravi Ahirwar to talk about faith and spend time in prayer. When it was almost time to leave, members of the pro-Hindu group, Hindu Dharam Sena, entered Ahirwar’s house and started arguing with those present.

“They accused us of luring innocent Hindus with money and benefits and converting them. They threatened us and told us not to pray or to meet fellow Christians,” recalled Pastor Bharat Kumar Wadhwani to Barnabas Fund. Pastor Wadhwani is a resident of Korba, Chhattisgarh state, and was in Jabalpur as part of a weekend speaking engagement with a local church.

The Hindu men then took the three Christian outside. A mob of 50–60 men joined them and the three Christian men were punched and hit with a cricket bat. Their car was completely vandalised.

“The Hindu Dharam Sena leader, Yogesh Agrawal, came and started to question me and it was then that the mob began to assault us physically and one of them hit my face with his fist breaking my spectacles; he punched my eye,” said Wadhwani.

The three men were subsequently taken to Gorakhpur Police Station on motorbikes driven by men from the crowd, who continued to beat them along the way.

A case was registered against all three Christians under sections 295A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code: “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” (295A) and “Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention” (34).

“Until midnight the Hindu extremists shouted slogans outside the police station verbally abusing us and blaming us of forceful conversion,” said Wadhwani.

Wadhwani said that the next morning they were treated very respectfully by the police staff. “One of the senior police officers told us that it has become the daily routine of the right-wing organisations to catch pastors and evangelists and drag them to the police station. There is political pressure and the police are sandwiched between the two.”

Wadhwani added that the incident provided opportunity to witness in the police station and to the local media. “We got to testify about Christ and it is worth the beating we suffered,” he concluded.

Pastor Pastor Bharat Kumar Wadhwani suffered injury to his right eye. Vijay Paul sustained internal injuries and damage to both his ear drums, to the extent that he was unable to hear. He is currently in Bangalore receiving treatment. Moses Edward sustained severe internal injuries and damage to one of his ear drums.

Historically Jabalpur has a strong Christian presence but incidents against the Christian community there started to grow after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the state in December 2003. Hindu extremist groups like Dharam Sena, led by Yogesh Agarwal (a man with strong BJP ties), have been the main instigators of violence and false accusations against Christians in the area.

Since the BJP came to national power in India in May 2014, the situation has changed drastically for Christians all over the country, including Jabalpur. “All over the city, their men are roaming to catch hold of Christian ministers to accuse them falsely of forcible conversions,” said a senior evangelist, who does not want to be named for security reasons.

“I do not take the main roads, I go by lanes and by-lanes. Many times I have encountered them, and they have threatened to kill me. Three times I have been jailed for ‘evangelising’,” he added.

– barnabas persecution update

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