After deciding their gods were angry at them because neighbors had become Christians, Hindu villagers in Chhattisgarh state last month attacked 28 Christians, drove them out from their homes and set their houses on fire, sources said.
Christians in Katholi village, Kanker District who were beaten and twice chased out from their homes by Hindu extremists returned on May 3 after police registered a case against 12 assailants and the hard-line Hindus agreed not to attack again. The Christians had fled their village on April 25 when the radical Hindus partially burned their houses after beating them at a public meeting.
"For a long time, the Hindu villagers had harbored hatred against the Christians and finally summoned them to a public meeting, told them to renounce Christ, beat them up severely and burned up their houses," pastor Able Varghese told Morning Star News.
Prior to the attack, the assailants met and resolved that all area Christians should "reconvert" to Hinduism because their gods were angry over the villagers putting their faith in Christ.
"The Hindu extremists started performing all kinds of rituals in the village and threatened to harm the Christians, as they accused them of being the reason for their gods being silent and not responding to them, and they pressured the Christians to leave Christianity," another Christian source told Morning Star News on the condition of anonymity.
As the Christians refused to renounce Jesus, the radical Hindus summoned them to a public meeting at about 9 a.m. on April 25, where they again demanded they renounce Christ.
"The Hindu extremists started to beat the Christians when they refused to renounced Jesus, paraded them back to their houses while they continued to beat them, burned their houses and threatened to kill them as well," the source said.
Bruised and swollen, the four Christian families fled the village. Six people sustained major injuries, including 65-year-old Manganu Ram, whose ear was seriously injured. No children were attacked, and the wounded Christians received medical treatment at a health care center in Bhanupratappur, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Katholi, the source said.
The Christians took refuge in the homes of Christians in Kaviti, sources said.
The next day the Christians filed a police complaint and returned to their village, where they immediately encountered angry faces and verbal abuse.
"As the Christians reached the village, some started verbally abusing them, and later at around 9 p.m., the massed up extremists surrounded their houses, dragged them outside, beat them and told them to take back their complaint against them," the source said.
The 28 Christians, including eight children, once again fled, reaching Bhanupratappur at midnight. For five days some were put up in a small church building in the village, and others in the homes of Christians, the source said.
With the help of the area Christian leaders, Korar police registered a case against the 12 attackers.
"The police made a compromise between the two parties, wherein the Hindu extremists agreed that they will not repeat any kind of attacks or discrimination against the Christians, and whereby the Christians also agreed to go back to their village," Pastor Varghese said, adding that they returned in fear.
Similarly, 82 kilometers (50 miles) from Kanker in Sukma, Dantewada District, Hindu extremists on April 20 stopped two Christians on their way to a market and forcibly "purified" them with Hindu rituals, an attorney said. They later burned one of the Christians with hot coins on several parts of his body.
A 55-year-old Christian who goes by the single name of Jaisingh and his son-in-law were on their way to the market to buy vegetables when five Hindu extremists led by the village head, Praveshi Nath, stopped them and accused them of defiling their gods, attorney Sonsingh Jhali, coordinator of Alliance Defending Freedom-India's Legal Aid Cell, told Morning Star News.
The hard-line Hindus told them that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ was not permitted to stay in the village.
"They surrounded them and said that the Christians need to be purified, and they forcefully applied oil and turmeric powder all over their bodies as a form of ritual cleansing," Jhali said.
Some 35 villagers looked on during the assault as the two Christians were told to deny Christ. When they refused, the extremists took five coins, held them to a lighter and plied them to Jaisingh's body.
"They put the hot coin on the backbone, leg, hands and tongue of Jaisingh," Jhali said. "The harassment went on for about two hours, and thereafter they imposed a fine of 5,051 rupees [US$75] on him for being a Christian."
Thereafter, some Christians arrived at the spot, rescued the two Christians and rushed Jaisingh to the hospital.
The Christian submitted a police complaint against the five attackers - Praveshi Nath, Rama Nath and three others identified only as Pandru, Sonu and Shitu. Police launched a case only against Rama Nath and another person, identified only as Aiyata, whose name did not appear in the complaint.
"We are extremely upset by the twisting of this matter," Jhali said. "We are meeting the area superintendent of police, and we demand that the five attackers whose names are clearly mentioned in the complaint be arrested."