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An Indian Pastor was brutally beaten during a Gospel outreach in Dabli Rathan the largest village in Hanumangarh District, Rajasthan on 16th August 2017. During the attack his wife was also slapped and the event organising team were also beaten by members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) a known Hindu fundamentalist group.
Pastor Harjot Sethi and wife Arvinderjot Sethi
Today our lead officer in India Pastor Naresh Paul spoke with Pastor Harjot Sethi of Christ Power Ministry Society the main target for the attack. Pastor Harjot described the incident and told BACA that men armed with concealed metal poles and large, thick wooden sticks had joined visitors to the outreach. They waited until Pastor Harjot started to speak and then launched an attack on the organising team and Pastor Harjot they also slapped his wife Arvinderjot Sethi several times but she managed to escape and ran to the local police station.
The men seemed intent on killing Pastor Harjot and made him the main focus of the attack. Pastor Harjot sustained severe injuries to his head and has fractured his leg However many of the men in the church intervened and protected the battered Pastor and even helped Police capture four men who have been arrested and identified as members of RSS. Only the quick thinking of his wife prevented a fatality as the hindu extremists who attacked Pastor Harjot seemed intent on murder witnesses have stated. Pastor Harjot's mother spoke to the BPCA, she said:
"My Son was simply sharing God's message of hope through accepting Christ our Lord and Saviour. The hooligans waited for him to start speaking and rushed to kill him. They were armed with weapons and were beating him hard and any others that tried to stop the violence. I was terrified and had to watch from afar unable to do anything.
"I feared for his life but God protected my son who survived the vicious attack despite being hit on his head with thick metal poles. I praise God for his mercy and protection."
Despite the capture of the attackers and the link with RSS proven few believe that the perpetrators of the violence will be prosecuted. In previous similar incidents RSS extremists have escaped justice through their network of infiltrators into all Government and statutory establishments. Police were even initially uncooperative with Pastor Harjot and wanted to simply end the fighting and allow the RSS antagonists to go free. Pastor Harjot, said:
"I thought I would die these men came rushing at me as soon as I started speaking and I was hit on the head. I passed out temporarily which only excited the RSS goons more I am told. The attackers started beating me more intensely whilst I was on the floor.
Initially the police seemed to only want to restore peace and were reticent to take action against the perpetrators. So my colleagues asked me to produce videos about the attack and we shared them on social media to galvanise support for justice.
"Christian's in India are suffering an increasing amount of animosity since the BJP regime secured victory in the national elections of 2014. Life is becoming increasingly untenable and we pray for change to come."
Concerted pressure by Christian lobbyists and a public demonstration calling for the men to be prosecuted however has forced the hand of apathetic police.
Pastor Harjot resides in Jalandhar and was kindly collected from the hospital by the youth team of a local Catholic church from Jalandhar who drove him the 10 hours journey to his home today. The attack has created great anger in the Christian community across India who are asking for justice to be served for the beleaguered victims of this unprovoked attack.
Attacks on Christians are led by Hindu nationalists acting largely with impunity a growing concern since the election of President Narendra Modi in 2014. Just over 2% of the country’s population is Christian, and nearly 80% of Indians are Hindu.
Since the election of Modi national and provincial authorities tacitly permit persecution of a deprived Christians in India. Religious nationalists feel empowered under Modi who as a teenager joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh a known Hindu fascist group whose main aim is to turn India into a Hindu superpower and whose most revered alumni is Nathuram Godse the fanatic who assassinated Ghandi.
Mr Modi's political party Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) once called a three-day strike after alleging Pakistan' secret services were responsible for the death of 58 Hindu pilgrims in a burning train carriage - a claim that was unsubstantiated. The bloodiest anti-Muslim pogrom in modern history ensued in which Hindu men dragged wives and daughters on to the streets to be raped. It is estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 people were killed and tens of thousands found themselves homeless.
Religious nationalists increasingly attempt to forcibly convert non-Hindus to their dominant faith, willing to use violence at the drop of a hat, when community discrimination and non-violent oppression fail to impose their religious beliefs on minority Christians.
Christians face huge socioeconomic problems a consequence of decades on uninhibited oppression, many came form the lowest social class the Dalits and as such have always been an easy target for Hindu fundamentalists.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Asian Christian Association, said:
"This unprovoked attack on a Christian Pastor before many visitors is an attack on religious freedom. It resonates with the hatred Christians face on a daily basis in a nation that is becoming increasingly polarized under Modi's government. Pastor Harjot has bravely spoken out and helped shed light on the growing intolerance in India despite the personal risk to himself. Christians across the globe must pray for justice and safety for Pastor Harjot.
"India's position as the third largest economy in the world and a nuclear power has created a global reluctance to intervene with the growing Hindu nationalism that is destroying the lives of minorities living there. The complicit acceptance by western nations of India's human rights abuses has meant that anit-conversion laws that are in breach of the UN Human Rights Convention have gone unnoticed. These laws threaten to create the same levels of persecution of minorities in India as exists in neighbouring Pakistan.
"Quite simply, India as a nation must be persuaded to fully comply with their international human rights obligations including taking action to tackle any abuse of these rights, or the west can only blame themselves for a further increase in the ongoing migration crises."
British Asian Christian Associtaion is providing advocacy and aid to Christians across the Indian subcontinent and need your help to continue this work. If you would like to donate towards our ongoing work please (click here)
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