India: Attack on Christian Group in Village Bahera, Rewa

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Mr. Brij Lal Saket, s/o Shri Sant Lal Saket, is a resident of village Bahera, Police Station Naigarhi, Tehsil Devtalab, Dist. Rewa. This is a remote interior village situated about 80 kms from the district headquarters. On 22nd March 2008, at around noon, a group of nine men from the village Bahera, came to his doorstep, armed with rods and sticks and stones, and very drunk. They claimed that they were Bajrang Dal activists, and were shouting slogans to that effect.

They were very abusive and violent and demanded that Brij Lal hand over their daughters to them for their pleasure. When Brij Lal tried to tell them that they were drunk and they should go home, they became even more abusive and charged at them. Brij Lal and his two daughters managed to run inside their house, but his old father and mother and his sister were not able to get to safety.

The men attacked these people viciously with rods and sticks and stones. The old man Mr. Sant Lal Saket sustained severe injuries on his left hand, with a possible fracture of the middle finger. He had been very sick for the past four months, which compounded the problem.

Brij Lal’s sister Michva, was also beaten up mercilessly, and sustained severe head injuries.

The worst hit was old Hirauwa, Brij Lal’s mother who is around 60 years old. She was attacked with sticks and stones. One of the stones smashed the bridge of her nose. Along with other injuries on her head and body, this was the most grievous injury.

After having indulged in this seemingly senseless carnage, the culprits ran off, leaving the victims bleeding outside the house. Then some other people from the village came and helped to bring the injured to the nearest Primary Health Centre at Naigarhi, which is about 15 kms from their village, and a report was lodged at the Police Station at Naigarhi, and is registered as Complaint No. 47 / 08, under the sections 294, 323, 506B and section 34 of the IPC. The complaint is still not been finalized as the Police are waiting for the medical report, after which further sections will be decided. Considering the nature of the injuries, sections 326 and 307 of the IPC are warranted.

The names of the culprits recorded in the complaint are: Bhagwandeen, Jagdish, Kanhai (all s/o Daulu) , Somnath s/o Raghunath, Ramesh, Suresh ( both s/o Bhagwandeen ), Shivpal s/o Vishram, Mohanlal s/o Auseri and Gopilal s/o Ram Prasad. All of them belong to the Saket community.

The Reason and History

This is the third attack on the victims over the past one year. The first attack was on 15th July 2007, the FIR for which is registered on the 17th July 2007, and the second attack was on 17th January 2008, the FIR being registered on the same day.

The victims are a group of about 40 people who have for various personal reasons put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They belong to the Saket community, who belong to the Scheduled Castes under the Constitution of India, and who are considered untouchables by the High Caste Hindus. They are very poor landless labourers, who live barely at the sustenance level. They have no political or social influence.

The culprits also belong to the same community, but are said to be Bajrang Dal activists. Bajrang Dal is a militant Hindu fundamentalist organization, and the local leaders are Mr. Shrikant Tomar and Mr. Subhash Gupta ( both belonging to High castes).

The movement which now has 40 members, began two years ago, when one of their community, Mr. Ram Mani Saket, had an experience of deliverance from evil spirits and came to believe. He began to share his belief with his community and people began to believe. This upset the above leaders and they began a systematic campaign of terror and intimidation against the victims.

They wooed some of the people of the Saket community (the culprits) of that village and made them members of the Bajrang Dal. They instigated them to unleash a reign of terror on this group. This has involved ongoing life-threats, refusal to allow them to fill water from the Govt. installed handpump in their village, and constant harassment of the women. They have been repeatedly saying to them that you stop worshipping Jesus and join Bajrang Dal or we will kill you all.

Points of Concern

I would like to bring to your consideration the following points:

It is evident that Mr. Shrikant Tomar and Mr. Subhash Gupta are the rich and influential people of that area. They are office bearers of Bajrang Dal.

They are playing a political game, by playing people of the same caste against each other. For if they personally get involved in the case, then there is likely to be an uproar on the caste issue ( which is very volatile, especially with the elections to the State Assembly coming up ) and also they liable to be prosecuted under the SC/ST Act, which provided special protection to the people under that category.

They have continually instigated some of the people of the same caste, giving them drinks and promise of protection against any action.

In the first two cases when there was no real action taken by the authorities, they were encouraged in their acts of wanton violence and that is what led to this situation.

The local police are trying to give this incident the colour of a personal feud between two groups of people under the influence of alcohol, on the occasion of Holi, and are not taking into cognizance the real nature of the incident, which is a deliberate provocation which is clearly communal in nature. The possible reason for this being that the leaders, Mr. Shrikant and Mr. Subhash claim political connections and influence.

It is evident that the most likely scenario that will emerge from this situation is that the culprits, who themselves are poor and helpless will languish in prison, while the real instigators will get away scot free to plot more atrocities.

There is no room for doubt, looking seriously at the above facts that this whole incident is a deliberate and planned attempt to curtail the religious and conscientious liberties of this group of people, by the groups who claim to represent the interests of the majority community, and that is the real issue at stake.

The situation is vitiated by the facts of the social, economic and political positions of the victims. They are poor, helpless, uneducated, at the bottom rung of the social ladder and having no political influence at all.

However it is precisely these kinds of situations that call for the government to take active steps to ensure the safety and freedom and a release from an atmosphere of terror and fear. This will only happen if the administration commits itself to be impartial and serve the cause of justice. For this incident is not just an issue of Hindus against Christians, but it is a wider issue of Human Rights violations, and hence all like-minded people must put in their bit to ensure life and safety for all, regardless of their religious persuasions, their status and influence in society or we have to accept that we live by the jungle law and now by a civilzed human law.

Reported by Mr. Chandra Kant Shourie

Evangelical Fellowship of India request prayers for the believers injured in the attack and for the authorities to take proper action against the culprits.

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell,
General Secretary,
Evangelical Fellowship of India,
New Delhi, India

Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.