A disabled pastor and his wife who serve the Dalit people, formerly known as the “untouchables” in eastern India, were severely beaten by a group of Hindu nationalist men who broke into their home and attacked them with sticks, according to a report.
Pastor Ram Niwas and his wife, Pinky, who live in Bihar state’s Sitamarhi city and are converts from Hinduism, were attacked as they were praying in their home last week, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported. The suspected attackers included the pastor’s four brothers and a villager who are all supporters of the Hindu nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, or the VHP).
A church member, identified only as Narender, was praying with the pastor and his wife at their home when the men used a hammer to break into the property. The church member was also injured as he attempted to protect the pastor.
Pastor Niwas, who is disabled because of a childhood accident, had been a target of the VHP for some time and frequently accused of converting Hindus and forcing others to eat beef. Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus.
The pastor ministers to Dalit people who are considered the lowest individuals in the Hindu caste hierarchy.
Last year, a mob of about 20 people from the Bajrang Dal group (VHP’s youth wing) attempted to attack the pastor.
Many states in India have “anti-conversion” laws, which presume that Christians use money or other fraudulent means to convert Hindus. These laws have been in place for decades in some states, but no Christian has been convicted of “forcibly” converting anyone to Christianity. These laws, however, allow Hindu nationalist groups to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them under the pretext of the alleged forced conversion.
“Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences,” noted Open Doors’ World Watch List last year, which ranked India as the 10th worst country for Christians.
“The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is viewed as non-Indian. Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities,” Open Doors said at the time.
India was not named by the U.S. State Department last year as being among the “countries of particular concern” that have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
In a statement to The Christian Post, advocacy group The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America said it was “deeply disappointed” India did not receive the CPC designation in 2020.
“The national government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence,” FIACONA said. “The Indian government headed by the Hindu nationalist BJP party continues to claim so conveniently that all such violence against Christians in India is isolated incidents and not the policy of the government.”