By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christian leaders held emergency talks with authorities in central India where police detained scores of Christians instead of the Hindu nationalists who attacked them.
An October 27 meeting with the government of India’s state of Chhattisgarh followed an assault by a Hindu nationalist mob on more than 60 Christians, Worthy News learned.
The Christians were reportedly held against their will last month before police arrived and detained the Christians rather than the assailants, sources said.
A mob of about 500 Hindu nationalists on October 17 interrupted a dinner of Christians in Oteband village, in Chhattisgarh state’s Durg District, according to witnesses.
They reportedly searched their belongings, harassing them and physically assaulting some of them. Videos on social media showed the mob forcing church members to line up as they looked in their belongings and clothes, including women’s undergarments.
Local media said the Hindu mob’s stones injured three Christians named Manjula, Poonam, Durga Sahu, and others.
Police confiscated 19 vehicles belonging to the 60 detained Christians, who were released only last Thursday, October 28, after court hearings and procedures, Christians said.
Anil Tandon, who hosted the gathering of The Pentecostal Mission (TPM) church in Raipur, was quoted as saying said he had been sent to jail on October 18. After his release on bail two days later, Tandon, 35, denied all allegations of forceful conversions Christian news agency Morning Star News reported.
Police had charged Tandon and others under the Indian Penal Code for “injuring or defiling place of worship” with their dinner.
Tandon denied wrongdoing, saying he hosted the meeting to “give thanks to God for healing” him of illness. He expressed surprise that police targeted him but not those who attacked him and other believers. “Some men from the mob took me inside the house, where one person slapped me three or four times,” he recalled.
“Then they brought me outside and assaulted me there, too. While we were taken before the village panchayat [council], I was beaten there too.”
The mob led by Hindu extremists also vandalized their vehicles, witnesses said. In their talks with the government, four Christian leaders from the region urged justice.
Armed with evidence, they reportedly met with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu, and Director General of Police D.M. last week, October 27.
The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFIRLC) suggested this was not an isolated attack. The group documented at least 32 incidents of “violence and hate” against Christians in Chhattisgarh this year.
India ranked 10th on Christian advocacy group Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of 50 countries where it claims it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2020.
The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Narendra Modi came to power, Open Doors said.
Critics see Modi as a polarising politician - loved and loathed in equal measure.
Christians agree that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader has promoted muscular Hindu nationalism that created an atmosphere of hatred towards non-Hindu minorities, including Christians.
For years he was persona non grata in the United States, Britain, and other nations due to deadly anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state under his watch.
Modi has denied allegations he was reluctant to stop the bloodshed.