Attack on Private Christian Gathering in Northern India Typifies Strategy of Hindu Extremists

A Hindu extremist strategy for stopping the spread of Christianity by targeting pastors – and their families – was painfully evident in a recent attack on a Christmas planning meeting in northern India.

As has become routine in India, police arrested badly beaten Christians and charged them with causing religious enmity, sources said.

Pastors from 12 churches in Agra, Uttar Pradesh state and from 10 churches in nearby Mathura were meeting, along with their families, in the Hotel Samover in Agra on Oct. 30 to plan a Christmas program when Hindu extremists arrived and began terrorizing them, sources said.

No more than 45 minutes into the meeting, more than 35 Hindu extremists brandishing hockey sticks, baseball bats and wooden sticks barged into the basement hall shouting slogans and curses and began beating the Christians.

“They did not engage in any kind of dialogue with us but abruptly entered the hall where we were conducting our private gathering and ruthlessly attacked us,” pastor Ravi Kumar said of the assailants from the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP).

The extremists hit men and women with their weapons, fists and legs, sources said. About 30 men and 50 women, plus children, had gathered for the meeting.

“They were shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ [Hail, Lord Ram]!” while they hit us black-and-blue, and some men from the mob tore the clothes of the women and dragged them by their hair,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News.

As the extremists beat pastor Sam Jacob, the event organizer, they also pushed his late-term, pregnant wife and threw her onto the floor, Pastor Kumar said.

Young men were stationed on the staircase leading to the exit to beat those trying to escape, while other assailants waited at the reception area. Panic-stricken Christians running toward the exit could not escape; some who were beaten in the basement hall were caught at the staircase and beaten again, and then again at the reception area, sources said.

“They had brought along about 20 young men who were assigned the task of entering the hall and attacking the Christians with the weapons they carried and then immediately leaving the premises and disappearing,” Pastor Kumar said. “After they left, the middle-aged Hindu extremists began to create a scene and started to accuse us of carrying out conversions. Before the police arrived, the young men who had carried out the attack had left.”

Several Christians sustained internal and external injuries. An assailant struck Pastor Kumar in the face with a hockey stick, causing him to bleed beneath his right eye, and another blow from a hockey stick tore muscle and tissue in his arm, he said.

“But they did not stop here,” Pastor Kumar said, “and continued to hit me with legs, hands, and fists.”

The assault went on for 45 minutes before police from the Tajganj police station arrived – and arrested the Christians. Officers registered a case against the Christians within four hours of the assault while taking no action against the assailants, sources said.

Initially 13 Christians were arrested and held until midnight.

“While the police took 13 of us to the police station, the Bajrang Dal activists abused us with filthy language and slapped one of our pastors in the presence of policemen inside the police station,” said Pastor Kumar.

Police booked seven pastors on allegations of promoting enmity between groups on religious grounds (Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code) and deliberately insulting others’ religion (Section 295-A), based on First Information Report No. 1234, filed by a Bajrang Dal and VHP members.

Refuting all allegations leveled by the VHP and Bajrang Dal, Pastor Kumar stated, “It was our personal [and private] meeting, and ideally the hotel should have protected us and not allowed these people to enter the meeting with weapons.”

The assailants damaged worship instruments, including a keyboard and guitar, as well as a microphone, and they seized a bag of Bibles and two mobile phones, sources said.

“It was a very well-planned attack,” said Anil B. Lal, a pastor from Agra who helped secure bail for the arrested Christians.

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Source: Christian Headlines