Hyderabad, India (Morning Star News) – Animists in central India last week told five Christian families they would lose their harvest lands unless they returned to their tribal religion and beat them when they refused, sources said.
When the families answered a summons to a meeting with Salhephal village leaders in Bastar District, Chhattisgarh state on Tuesday (May 5), they found the tribal elders estimating the value of their lands, pastor Sirisguda Ramdhar told Morning Star News. The Christians had forbidden a tribal animist leader, Dulla Poyami, to perform tribal worship on their land, he said.
“The village leaders told the Christians, ‘You are not partaking in our tribal rituals, and so we cannot allow you to profit from your agricultural lands,’” Pastor Ramdhar told Morning Star News.
The Christians told them the lands were registered in their names, and that they were working hard to earn their bread, he said. “We follow our faith but have never been a burden on this village or to our kinsmen—you cannot snatch away our lands,” they told the tribal elders, according to the pastor.
“Even before they spoke any word further, the elders stood up and stormed at Christians Madda Poyami and Badda Poyami,” he said.
They began beating the two Christians, and a mob of at least 60 people soon gathered around them and the Christian families, clamoring for them to renounce their faith in Christ, he said.
“When the Christians refused, they abused them in extremely vulgar language and started beating them,” Pastor Ramdhar said. “The mob was very furious and did not spare even the women. They stoned Madda Poyami, injuring him in his head and knee.”
Poyami was admitted to the government hospital in Jagdalpur for treatment. Christians Bodda Poyami, Raino Poyami, Sumani Poyami, Hande Poyame, Jagri Poyami and Besalbati Poyami were also injured in the mob attack, and some of them received medical treatment without being admitted to the hospital, Pastor Ramdhar said.
He said the tribal animists, who worship and sacrifice to various tribal gods based in nature, had threatened to expel the Christian families and seize their land for more than a year.
Son Singh Jhali, a lawyer allied with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India (ADF India), visited the injured at the hospital and helped them draft a complaint to be filed at the Kodenar police station.
“The medical proofs are important to support the complaint and enable the police officers to register cases against the assailants,” Jhali told Morning Star News.
Death Threat in Central India
Also on Tuesday (May 5) in Bastar District, residents of Naktoka village who follow a mix of tribal religion and Hinduism threatened to kill Christians if they tried to give a Christian burial for one of their dead in the community graveyard, Pastor Guptaram Kawasi said.
“A mob of more than 100 villagers opposed the burial of Bhima Kashyap in the graveyard allotted for villagers, accusing him of adopting foreign faith,” Pastor Kawasi told Morning Star News. “The Christian family was put under immense pressure to perform his last rites as per the Hindu and tribal traditions followed in the village.”
Villagers told the family they must undergo a reconversion ritual in order to perform last rites, he said.