Some 50 Christ devotees attending Sunday service were attacked by Hindu radicals in the Mau district of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The activists of Bajrang Dal (party of the stout and strong) and Hindu Yuva Vahini, a youth group, paraded the Christians to the nearby police station where they were detained until late night on October 10.
Seven of them, including three women and a pastor, were sent to jail for attempting forced religious conversion and other allegations.
Mau town is some 315 km southeast of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile two Ursuline Franciscan nuns, who had come to the city bus stand, were forcibly taken to the police station and kept there from 12:30 pm to 6 p.m. They were released under pressure from high ranking police officials from Lucknow, the state capital.
Sister Gracy Monteiro, working in Mirpur Catholic mission, told Matters India that she had gone to the bus stand to help her companion Sister Roshni Minj to board a bus to Varanasi.
Sister Minj was going home to visit her ailing father in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. As Minj went to ask about the bus, some Hindu radicals attacked the driver and forced the nuns to walk to the police station, where the Sunday worshipers were already detained..
Sister Monteiro said she was under terrible shock for almost an hour as she and Sister Minj were accused of being part of the Sunday worshipers who were allegedly attempting to forcibly converting the people.
Vijendra Rajbhar, the leader of the Christ devotees, told the police and the journalists that the Catholic nuns were not part of the prayer meeting. The Hindu radicals insisted that the nuns are part of the conversion gang.
The First Information Report filed by one Radheshyam Singh accused seven among the Sunday worshipers of violating Covid-19 protocol, using musical instruments, consuming narcotics and other intoxicants, and forcing people to convert to Christianity through allurements of money and employment.
The arrested included Pastor Abraham Shakil, his wife Pratibha, Vijendra Rajbhar and Geeta Devi, the couple in whose house the worship took place.
The First Information Report alleges that the pastor and others insulted Hindu deities using abusive language. The FIR also alleged that the Christ devotees also abused the prime minister and the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
Patsy David, a Christian activist and representative of Alliance for Democratic Freedom, which gives legal support to the Christian victims of persecution, told Matters India that the event should not be seen in isolation.
Since 2017 as many as 374 cases of persecution of Christians were reported from almost every district of Uttar Pradesh, David said. He also said such incidents increased manifold after the UP legislature passed an anti-conversion law in September 2020.
The rightwing elements barge into houses and tents where prayer meetings are held, shout slogans, beat up the leaders, women and children, break musical instruments, sound system, burn hymnals and the Bible, besides forcing the police to arrest Christians.
David alleges the police remain either inactive or support the attackers of Christian. Police who respond to the victims’ frantic calls, stand as mute spectators of violence and many times arrest the victims.
David pointed out that the victims have been mostly members of independent evangelical churches. They get bail only after several months. But they experience harassment as they have to appear in the court endlessly.
There is fear and terror looming among the evangelical pastors and preachers as they are unable to organize prayer meetings.
Dinanath Jaisawar, another Alliance Defending Freedom member, told Matters India that his organization is looking for legal, social and political ways to curb anti-Christian atrocities by Hindu fundamentalists.