09/03/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Christians in northern Telangana state are under assault as ultra-Hindu nationalists groups are unleashing a fresh dose of violence on the community. Groups like the RSS, VHP and Bajrangdal have attacked pastors and churches, leading to hospitalizations and widespread fear. Meanwhile, the perpetrators continue to enjoy total impunity as they go unpunished for their crimes.
Telangana ranks second in the list of places most likely to experience religiously motivated violence in India. They have had 25 major incidents so far this year as documented by International Christian Concern (ICC). Northern Telangana, particularly the Nizamabad district, has experienced a rough stretch of violence. The recent outbreak of violence has not only caused copious amounts of fear and anxiety, but has also caused major security concerns for the community as a whole.
One of the more recent attacks took place on August 10 in A. Kondurur village, approximately 12 kilometers from Nizamabad Town. Eight members of the Brethren Church were attacked, leaving several hospitalized with injuries.
"We were beaten up in such a way that no blood or injury was seen outside," Pastor David, the leader of the group that was attacked, told ICC. "We were tortured for more than three hours without a break, and they made sure that we don't faint and die by giving water to drink time to time in between. I thought that was the last day of our lives."
The men were attacked by RSS activists while distributing Christian literature in A. Kondurur village. The RSS perpetrators, led by the local village council president, Mr. Ashok, dragged all eight of the men to the center of the village around 3:00 p.m. where they were mercilessly kicked and punched until 6:00 p.m. They were accused of conducting forced conversions by their attackers.
"We couldn't bear the pain and the physical harassment, knowing that there was no way out," said Mr. Narsinga Rao, one of the eight Christians. "They applied the red powder on our forehead." Mr. Narsinga almost fainted due to his injuries.
The red powder was used to mark the men's "conversion" to Hinduism. If they did not comply, the RSS fighters promised to kill every one of them.
In another shocking incident, a local village council (panchayat) in Rachapur village passed a resolution saying that there would be a 5,000 rupee fine for anyone attending the church in Rachapur.
"The panchayat leaders, influenced by radicals, accused me of converting Hindus forcibly to Christianity," Pastor Michael of the Rachapur church told ICC. "The panchayat served an ultimatum that the church should be closed in the village."
The radicals continued their assault against Pastor Michael by impersonating church members and visiting the police station to file a false complaint against the pastor, claiming he had forcibly converted them.
According to ICC sources, the village council called a meeting and summoned Pastor Michael specifically. They told him that he must close down his church within the day. When he refused, the mob seized Pastor Michael and hurled insults against him and his faith.
Additionally, in response to the falsified complaint, police are now collecting personal information on all of the church members as part of an "investigation." Pastor Michael feels this further puts his congregation in a vulnerable situation.
According to one local Christian, "Nirmal block in Adilabad district has been hotbed of anti-Christian activities. The situation is such that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to go to church and pastors to do their evangelistic activities."
"The Christian community is under tremendous pressure in the region and the attacks on Christians are getting intensified," Rev. Dr. Ronald John, Chairman of Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee told ICC. "We are little over half year and nearly 30 incidents took place in Telangana so far. There could be more as a number of attacks goes unreported for various reasons. The government should be impartial in bringing perpetrators to the law of the land."
Despite India being nominally pluralistic and secular, the widespread attacks against Christians continue to create an unstable situation for the minority group. In 2016, Christians in India have already been attacked in over 150 documented incidents. It is imperative that the authorities remain impartial, treating all citizens the same. When will the voice of the suffering finally be heard in India?