“The assailants kept watch outside to hack the Christians to death if they stepped out,” he said. “They told me that the village council had sent some persons into the village to enquire if any of the residents had converted to Christianity. The Kashyaps’ neighbors had informed the village elders that they go to church and pray inside their home.”
At around 6 a.m. the next morning (April 7), six of the villagers took the Kashyap family by force to a place in the village where a mob of around 200 villagers surrounded them, Pastor Nag said.
“Without uttering a word, the assailants started beating the Christian men and woman in Kashyap’s family, including their infant grandchild,” he told Morning Star News.
The village council told the family they would be brutally killed if they reported the attack to police and fined them 5,000 rupees (US$67) he said. They took the money by force along with the family’s goat and chickens.
“Mangduram Kashyap is undergoing treatment for his injured eye,” Pastor Nag said. “We request prayers for a speedy recovery.”
Villagers had also threatened the Kashyaps in 2012, telling them to renounce Christ, he said. The family complained to police, who took no action, he said.
Sacrifice to Tribal Deities
In Metapal village, also in Dantewada District, animists beat Christians who refused to comply with their demand to sacrifice their animals to tribal deities, sources said.
A mob of around 120 villagers led by tribal leaders showed up at Santuram Markam’s home on March 30 at around 4:30 p.m. and beat family members when they refused to renounce Christ, Markam said.
“The village council summoned us to a meeting demanding we bring a goat, pig, hen, coconut, incense sticks and cash of 5,000 rupees [US$66] as sacrificial offerings to the tribal deities,” Markam told Morning Star News.
When they refused to give in to their demands, the mob again barged into Markam’s home the next night (March 31) and started beating his aged parents, he said.
“I escaped from there and have run into the woods,” he told Morning Star News at that time, by telephone. “I will go back only after knowing about the situation there at home. I am very scared to back home now. They beat us yesterday, and they came again today. My Christian neighbor Raju Podiyami and his family also came under attack today.”
Superintendent of Police of Dantewada District Abhishek Pallava told Morning Star News that officers were exhausted from working extra hours due to the novel coronavirus and it was not possible to send a force there at midnight.
“I will try to make peace between the groups over the phone,” Pallava told Morning Star News at that time. “Nobody can reach there now. All the police force has been working day and nights because of coronavirus. It is a Naxalite [Maoist rebel] area, we cannot take risks by sending forces without any preparation.”
The animists on March 31 kidnapped Markam’s neighbor, Podiyami, from his home and locked him in a hut as they drank liquor throughout the night, area pastor Sushil Sangam said. After cutting through the thatched roof and escaping, Podiyami took his family of eight, injured from the previous day’s attacks, and sought refuge at Pastor Sangam’s church site in Tokapal village, Bastar District, the pastor said.
“But the residents of Tokapal, fearing the spread of coronavirus, had informed the police that some unknown persons had entered the village,” Pastor Sangam told Morning Star News.
The police took them to a government shelter, where they were quarantined—and there four of them contracted malaria, including Podiyami, according to Pastor Sangam.
The pastor said they are undergoing treatment in Tokapal and staying with him.
“We are taking care of them,” Pastor Sangam said. “They are very scared to go back to Metapal now.”
Had police taken action against the assailants, the Christians would not have been forced to step out of their village seeking refuge and ended up in a shelter where some contracted malaria, Pastor Sangam said.
“It is very difficult to get any help from the police at midnight, as it is a Naxalite belt, and the tribal extremist leaders are very well aware of this,” he told Morning Star News.
ADF India’s Jhali said that farmers are preparing the soil, which involves sacrificial offerings to tribal deities, with the village council collecting funds and animals to be offered.
“But Christians refuse to partake in this ritual,” Jhali said. “This has been the one main reason for the spike in violent attacks against Christians amid lockdown.”
Jhali said officers at the Katekalyan police station had registered a First Information Report against the assailants under sections of the Indian Penal Code for rioting, obscene acts, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.