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India: Christian who refused to renounce faith beaten by Hindus, left with hearing damage

India: Christian who refused to renounce faith beaten by Hindus, left with hearing damage

Catholic devotees wear face mask attend the Holy Mass at the Saint Joseph's Church on the first day after the reopening of religious services after the government eased restrictions imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad on June 8, 2020. | NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images

A Christian in India is left with permanent hearing damage after Hindu radicals brutally beat him, demanding he renounce Christianity and return to Hinduism.

On Sept. 2, a mob of 60 Hindu radicals stormed the home of Jagra Kashyap, 45, and son Asharam Kashyap in Badrenga village, Bastar District, Morning Star News reports. Demanding the Christians renounce their faith, the radicals struck the elder man’s ear until it bled while delivering severe blows to his son’s back.

Doctors at the district government hospital said the damage to Kashyap’s ear is permanent, and that he will need a hearing aid the rest of his life, according to an allied lawyer for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India.

ADF India’s allied lawyer helped the victims prepare a petition to Bastar District police officials. Officers said they will not register a First Information Report unless eyewitnesses come forward to record statements; however, the Christians fear they will come under attack from Hindu extremists if they talk to police. 

“The next step is to move an application before the magistrate asking him to direct the police officers to register a case and investigate the matter,” the lawyer said.

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Local Pastor Vishwanath Kawasi said that the Christians have since taken refuge at an undisclosed location, fearing for their lives should they remain in the village. 

“Their families back home are also feeling unsafe, but if Kashyap and his son return there, they could be attacked any time again,” Pastor Kawasi said. According to the pastor, more than 10 Christian families in the village have come under attack in the past month.

“Only seven or eight members muster the courage to attend Sunday worship service,” he told Morning Star News. “The village president and elders from the village go door-to-door threatening Christians to renounce their faith and partake in rituals of purification to return to Hinduism.”

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The pastor argued that cases of Hindu extremists forcefully pressuring Christians to convert back to Hinduism are “deliberate and funded by some prominent people in politics and a well-strategized effort to target the home churches in the remotest parts of the state.”

Police have done nothing to protect the religious freedom of those who convert to Christianity, he said, adding that police remain largely “unresponsive” to the plight of religious minorities. 

ADF notes that since 2019, violence against Christians has risen “significantly.” ADF recorded at least 328 incidents of targeted violence against Christians in 2019, while The United Christian Forum documented over 102 incidents of harassment and mob violence against Christians in 2020 so far.

However, the incidents recorded represent a portion of the violence that is being experienced by India’s Christian community, who make up just 2.3% of India's population, as most cases go unreported due to fear of reprisal or mistrust for India’s justice system.

Last month, members of the Sarya Adivasi Samaj group destroyed the homes of 15 Christian families in the Kondagoan district of India’s Chhattisgarh state because they refused to renounce their faith. 

Fearing further violence, the Christians fled into the forest and took shelter in nearby villages.

“We have been tortured for almost three weeks,” Suraj Bhagel, a survivor of the Sept. 22 attack, told persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

“We returned to our village only to see the devastation,” Bhagel continued. “Rubble, broken utensils, scattered clothes, and broken cycles and motorbikes were all around us. Our situation is very pathetic. We are living in broken houses that are just roofless walls. We are also unheard and unattended by the authorities.”

Shiyaram Payam, a local, told Voice of the Martyrs that no action was taken against those attacking the homes, adding: “The police and local authorities were not helpful as four homes were destroyed in their presence.”

Also in September, three young Christians from Talbora, located in India’s Odisha state, were banished from their home village because they refused to renounce their Christian faith and convert to Hinduism.

In August, a pastor was attacked and brutally beaten by radical Hindu nationalists in Uttar Pradesh, India. The radicals reportedly accused the pastor of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity and used this accusation as a justification for their assault.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Open Doors notes that converts to Christianity from a Hindu background are “especially vulnerable to persecution” and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism.

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