By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Several impoverished Christian widows were still recovering from their injuries in India on Thursday, September 12, after they and other believers were reportedly attacked by Hindu militants for refusing to abandon their faith in Christ.
Known attacks against the widows began last month in the southwestern state of Katnataka where Doddamma, 42, lives with her 22-year old daughter in a government house for impoverished and backward families, Christian leaders said.
The All India Christian Council (AICC), which represents churches and mission groups throughout the country, said “radical Hindu groups” visited the home of Doddamma, a devoted Christian worker using one name, on August 18 in the town of Chikmagalur.
They “attacked” the widow’s house and started questioning Doddamma and her daughter “as to why they are visiting other Hindu families in the locality, teaching them about Christianity and praying for them”, AICC explained in comments monitored by BosNewsLife.
“They also questioned” the two believers “as to who had given them permission to preach Christianity and convert Hindus to Christianity,” the group claimed.
Soon after, they were reportedly dragged to a nearby temple and “ordered” by the Hindu mob to “reconvert” themselves to Hinduism, a religion they abandoned several years ago.
“But when both the mother and daughter stood their ground and firmly refused to go back to Hinduism, they were ruthlessly beaten by the Hindu fanatics. Their house too was looted and the household things were thrown out on the road,” AICC explained.
Neighbors reportedly saw Doddamma lying unconscious on the road and found her daughter semi-conscious in the nearby jungle where she was hiding during the night. With both suffering multiple bruises and swelling, residents rushed them to a local hospital where they received medical treatment for three days, according to local Christians.
Local police began an investigation against the suspects, but local Christians have expressed concerns that many Hindu militants still roam the streets without being prosecuted in several parts of India. “Please pray for Doddamma and her daughter,” AICC added in a statement.
Christian leaders said another widow, identified as Laxmi Sovi, was attacked in India’s central state of Chhattisgarh on August 24 when three “Hindu extremists” raided her home twice in Kakadi Beda village in Kondagoan district.
The men reportedly demanded that she and her children convert back to Hinduism.
When Sovi, who embraced Christianity four years ago, refused to renounce Christ, Hindu militants began beating her and her two children, threatening to rape her teenage daughter, Christians said.
While the children managed to escape and hid in the surrounding jungle, the men continued to kick and punch Sovi and threatened to kill her if she refused to return to Hinduism, according to residents.
Sovi, who later rushed to the jungle, came back home with area Christian leaders to find her house demolished, representatives said. After medical treatment Sovi and her family were rushed to another area where she received shelter.
Other families have also been attacked as part of a wider Hindu campaign to pressure Christians in rural areas to return to Hinduism, according to AICC investigators.
Last week, September 3, Christian Somashekar, his wife and their seven children “were beaten very badly” by a Hindu mob who told “them not to go to church or believe in Jesus Christ,” AICC added.
“When they refused to become Hindu” the mob “started beating”, “abused his wife using very filthy language” and “forced them to leave their village…”, AICC said. The mob also “damaged their house” in the town of Alamatti in Bijapur District, the group said.
The mob of about 50 Hindus began attacking them while they were were evangelizing and praying for a nearby family, Christians recalled.
There has been anger among Hindus about the Christian activities of Somashekar, a car driver who combines his daily job with evangelizing, distributing Christian literature, and taking people to an evangelical church.
Somashekar, 55, originally belonged to the Lambani caste within India’s ancient system of Hinduism before becoming a Christian, along with his wife Kusumabai, 48, who supports his Christian activities. They live in the area as the only Christian family among “30 Lambani Hindu families” with their four girls and three boys, AICC said.
Hindus have complained to police about alleged “forced conversions” carried out by the couple, while the Christians have filed a case against the militants for the attack.
“Due to the insecurity and threats to their life they were compelled to leave their house and village and hiding themselves with great fear,” AICC said. Police reportedly pledged to provide the necessary protection for the family to return to their home, but tensions remained Thursday, September 12.
Two other Christian families in the town of Thimdolli in Karnataka’s Belgaum district were also under pressure to abandon Christ since they were attacked last month, August 31, BosNewsLife learned.
On a Saturday morning, a group of Hindu militants attacked the Christian families, including two men identified as Brother Suresh and Brother Gangadhar, AICC said, adding that they were being “beaten very badly” and taken to the Hindu Temple where they were forced “to worship the idols.”
Additionally on September 1, the same group of 150 people attacked local Pastor Basavraj and local believers while they were worshiping in the church, AICC investigators said. They were also beaten and forced to halt the church service by Hindus “using filthy language”, the group stressed.
A tense calm returned to the area after an AICC visit, the group said, adding that it “demands fair justice to the victims.”
The latest attack against the church came roughly three weeks after Hindu militants allegedly attacked the house church of pastor Parama Jyothi in Mobanahalli village during a worship service in Karnataka’s Chitradurga District, on August 11.
Hindus allegedly dragged him along a road, tearing his clothes until he was half-naked. Pastor Jyothi’s body was covered in bruises, three front teeth were broken, and he required a week of medical treatment at a local hospital, local Christians said.
Residents said he asked for police protection as Hindu militants told him to leave the village.
The reported attacks come at a time of concern among hard-line Hindu nationalist groups about the spread of Christianity in this heavily Hindu nation of over 1.2 billion people.
Christians comprise just over 2 percent of the population, but mission groups report growing interest for the Christian faith among Hindus, including Dalits, who are regarded as the lowest caste by Hindu followers.