A Christian pastor and his wife were brutally beaten by suspected Hindu radicals posing as fellow believers at a church in Chhattisgarh, India. After beating the couple, the radicals then set a Bible and other articles inside the church on fire.
According to a report from the Hindustan Times, the two men entered the church during a Sunday night service, pretending to be followers of Christ visiting from another church. After Deenbandhu Sameli and his wife, Meena, welcomed them in, the men beat the pastor and his wife before pouring gasoline on the Bible, setting it and other religious material ablaze.
The men also attempted to set the pastor and his wife on fire, but the couple managed to escape.
Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh's Christian Forum, told the news outlet he believes the two attackers, armed with a knife, hammer, and sword, are members of a radical Hindu organization.
"This was third attack on the religious premises of Christian community in the region. It was carried out by the goons of Bajrang dal. Police are trying to cover it up," Pannalal said.
A Bastar city official insisted that the culprits will be found and arrested, and claimed that police immediately arrived at the scene after the attack was reported.
"As per the written complaint of Pastor Deenbandhu Sameli, an FIR has been lodged in this connection. Continuous patrolling is being done in the region to nab the attackers. We are pretty sure that the culprits will be arrested soon," Bastar SP RN Dash said.
"After getting information about the incident, we immediately rushed to the spot and deployed a policeman for security throughout the night," he added.
Christians in the country take up about 2.3 percent of India's entire population, which is about 25 million. Many of them belong to the social class known as the Untouchables or Dalits, which is the poorest group in the country, according to Premiere.
According to a report by the Evangelical Fellowship, 177 cases of Christian persecution have been recorded in India last year. However, it is believed that the number of actual cases may be higher since some incidents may not have been reported to authorities.
In March, Hindu radicals attacked about 60 Christians praying and worshipping at a Pentecostal church in India's Chhattisgarh state. According to reports, aside from destroying properties of the church, the female members of the congregation were also stripped naked.
India is ranked 17th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. The report notes that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily.
"While intolerance has risen, and minorities are constantly attacked, the central government has refused to speak out against the atrocities - thus further encouraging the radical Hindus to step up their actions. The level of impunity has gone up markedly for those who push for a completely Hindu India."