A 35-year-old Christian man in southern India has been in hiding for over a month since his radical Hindu neighbors threatened to kill him if he didn’t vacate his house and beat him with iron rods until he fell unconscious.
The victim, Santosh Kumar from Kamaraj Nagar area in Tamil Nadu state’s Karur District, was attacked on the road near his house on Aug. 1 but hasn’t been able to return home, Morning Star News reported Thursday.
Kumar was attacked shortly after a church elder visited him and one of his Hindu neighbors, who was drunk, objected to it. “He started shouting at me, ‘Are you a Christian? Why are Christians visiting you?’” Kumar was quoted as saying.
The neighbor told Kumar that India was a Hindu country. “He threatened that he would murder me if I did not vacate my rented house immediately,” Kumar said.
Soon, two other area Hindus arrived on motorcycles and dragged him into bushes far from the road, he continued.
“Two persons were ready with iron rods there. Two of them held me up while the others drank alcohol and started beating me with iron rods. They pushed me to the ground with their feet and pelted me with stones. They threatened that if I dared share about Jesus with anybody, they would kill me.”
He sustained beatings for about half an hour before he fell unconscious, the victim recalled.
He was treated for severe injuries to his head, stomach and back. “My backbone still hurts,” he said. “The doctors told me that the bony ridge on my left eyebrow has been damaged. I was hospitalized for 17 days.”
He added that after he was discharged from the hospital, he couldn't gather the courage to return to his home. “I was afraid that if the assailants find me now, they will not spare me alive.”
Police registered a complaint, but Kumar was only able to identify one of his attackers as a man named Manoranjit. Police later told him that Manoranjit had filed a counter-complaint against him — a false charge of sexually harassing a mentally disabled woman whom Kumar had found lying unconscious on a road earlier this year.
“It is totally a false allegation,” said Kumar, adding that Manoranjit has several criminal cases pending against him. “She is like a sister, and I have only helped her out of human concern. I never had any wrong intentions towards her.”
India, where Christians make up about 2.5% of the population and Hindus comprise 79.5%, ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the U.S. State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.
Open Doors USA warns that since the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased.
The group reports that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”
“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a 'foreign faith' and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”