By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - A dozen Christian worshipers have been attacked by hundreds of Hindu hardliners in northern India amid
spreading Hindu nationalist hate speech and violence towards minority Christians in the country, Worthy News established Saturday.
Christians with close knowledge about the situation said about 12 believers gathering at the House of Prayer church in the town of Roorkee in Uttarakhand state, a mob of almost 300 people was hurt just before their Sunday service began on October 3.
Among those attacked was a young boy, identified as Rajat, who had his ears cut off, according to church sources. Rajat was allegedly beaten so severely that he was found lying in a pool of blood and vomit before being rushed to the hospital. Another man was beaten semi-unconscious, and a woman had her hair pulled out, Christians said.
Witnesses said angry Hindus also destroyed security cameras, lights, fans, musical instruments, and furniture. "They didn't look like goons; they were well-off, they came in cars. I called the police station, but I wasn't able to connect," explained Eva Lance, leading the congregation with her mother since her father passed away due to COVID-19.
In remarks released by advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Lance said the mob entered chanting "Vande Mataram, Jai Shri Ram, and Bharat Mata Ki Jai." The slogans, known as expressions of Hindu faith, mean "Praise to the motherland," "Hail [Hindu god] Lord Ram/Victory to Lord Ram," and "Hail India."
CHURCH PROPERTIES DESTROYED
Lance recalled that she asked the mob to sit down, but the group instead proceeded to attack the Christians and destroy the church's property. One man allegedly attempted to set the vehicles parked outside on fire.
The police were called to the incident taking Lance and another church member to the police station where a First Information Report or FIR was filed, required to open a criminal investigation, Worthy News learned.
The FIR reportedly named Seema Goel, Lance's former school principal, and Shiv Prasad Tyagi, a member of the right-wing Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad, as being among those responsible for the violence. "Despite this, the mob filed a counter case against the victims, accusing them of non-bailable offenses like molestation, robbery, and organized crime," added CSW, which supports the church. "So far, no arrests have been made on either side."
Lance said she had contacted police two days before the attack after she and her mother "realized" they were "being followed" by people in a car. "The police walked in so passively, even though I had been asking for security for two days. It was so obvious that the whole rampage was pre-planned, and the police were involved," Lance added in remarks distributed by CSW.
"The mob knew precisely where the cameras were. They were able to gather so many people together. It was so well thought out. Our church is located near the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee. So it's a colony of professors and highly educated people. It has been so peaceful all these years. So, it was definitely pre-planned," she stressed.
Courts in India were closed for the major Hindu festival of Dusherra, and victims will have to wait until next week for the hearing, according to CSW representatives.
In a reaction, CSW'S Founder and President, Mervyn Thomas, said his group's "hearts go out to those who have been injured." He called it a "brutal assault on a group of Christians peacefully gathering to worship."
However, Thomas stressed that the "brazen attack and the apparent involvement of the police must serve as a wake-up call for India's lawmakers." He noted that India's minorities "deserve to be protected by its judicial system. And the government must do far more to combat the culture of impunity that surrounds incidents of mob violence."
Thomas said it was crucial to "crackdown on Hindu nationalist rhetoric and hate speech espoused by government ministers."
Christian rights monitor Open Doors said that Hindu-dominated India is now in the top ten of the most dangerous places for Christians to live and profess their faith. Christians comprise just over two percent of the country's mainly Hindu population of more than 1.3 billion people.