A pastor in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh has been falsely charged with forcible conversion and received death threats even as his attackers are roaming free.
Pastor Kailash Dudwe from Kukshi village in Madhya Pradesh state’s Dhar District, who is still recovering from injuries he and his family sustained in a brutal attack by radical Hindu nationalists in January, has been ordered to go to court to defend himself against a complaint filed by his attackers who claim he violated the state’s “anti-conversion” law, Morning Star News reports.
The pastor’s wife, Jyoti Dudwe, filed a separate police complaint against a Hindu nationalist man, identified as Ashok Bamnia, and about 25 others who broke into their home to apprehend and assault the Christian family. On top of the charges for criminal intimidation, wrongful restraint and assault, police added a section of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to the complaint against the attackers.
All the accused remained at large, however.
Jyoti Dudwe said her husband, who continues to go to the hospital for regular visits to treat his wounds, has received death threats but police have not provided any protection for him or the family. Further complicating their life, their landlord has also demanded that they vacate their home and no other property owner is willing to rent to them.
On Jan. 14, a mob of more than 20 radical Hindu nationalists physically attacked Pastor Dudwe and six other Christians, including his wife, their 5-year-old daughter, a 16-year-old girl, and four men.
The attackers tried to hit the pastor’s daughter with an iron bar.
“My wife caught the rod and stopped it from hitting our daughter,” Pastor Dudwe was quoted as saying. “I still get terrified at the thought of their brutality, that they showed no mercy toward my little girl.”
In a video of the attack, Christian women are seen pleading with the mob to allow them to give water to the pastor who had fallen to the ground semi-conscious with a bloody nose and unable to lift any part of his body.
The pastor’s wife and brothers-in-law, Aakash Joshi and Vikas Joshi, were also seriously injured in the attack.
Pastor Dudwe was hospitalized for two weeks. After being discharged, the pastor learned that an arrest warrant had been against him. He surrendered himself at the Kukshi police station on Feb. 1 and was sent to Alirajpur jail. He remained in prison for three days and three nights before he was released on bail.
Pastor Dudwe’s church services have come to a stop since the attack, and local officials have given orders for other area churches to stop worship.
India’s anti-conversion laws presume that Christians “force” or give financial benefits to Hindus to convert them to Christianity. Some of these laws have been in place for decades in some states. Radical Hindu nationalist groups frequently use the laws to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them under the pretext of an alleged forced conversion.
The law states that no one is allowed to use the “threat” of “divine displeasure,” meaning Christians cannot talk about Heaven or Hell, as that would be seen as “forcing” someone to convert. If any type of food or a meal is served after an evangelistic meeting, that is seen as an “inducement.”
For India’s Christians, 2021 was the “most violent year” in the country’s history, according to a report by the United Christian Forum, which recorded at least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution in the year.
The UCF attributed the high incidence of Christian persecution to “impunity,” due to which “such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions.”
Police registered formal complaints in only 34 of the 486 cases, according to the UCF.
“Often communal sloganeering is witnessed outside police stations, where the police stand as mute spectators,” the UCF report states.
“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 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.”
Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%.