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India: Christian Pastor Paraded, Injured, Forced into Hindu Ritual, Police Make No Arrests

Here is yet another attack against Christians from those in India who believe that Christianity is an alien faith, and once again we see police reluctant to take action on behalf of the Christians.

Christianity has been in India since apostolic times, brought there by St. Thomas the Apostle in A.D. 52, as attested by St. Ephraim, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian, among others. St. Thomas was martyred in India in A.D. 72. Today the Malankara Orthodox Church of the East still survives there, an apostolic Church that broke with Holy Orthodoxy over the Council of Chalcedon in 451. There also remains a small number of Orthodox Christians under the jurisdiction of the the Holy Metropolis of Singapore. Roman Catholics and Protestants came to the Indian Subcontinent much later. Yet Christians are frequently persecuted in India, mistreated and even brutalized in the belief that Christianity has no place in the country.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in India, see here.

“Christian Pastor Paraded, Injured, Forced into Hindu Ritual,” Morning Star News, April 20, 2021:

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Pastor Sanjay Bhandari had taken his wife for a medical check-up earlier this month when they decided to visit her sister in the same area in Karnataka state, southwest India – only to be attacked as they were drinking tea.

“While we were still having tea, a few men barged inside the house and, grabbing me by my shirt collar, they dragged me outside, accusing me of carrying out conversions,” Pastor Bhandari told Morning Star News. “I tried very hard to explain that it was my relatives’ house, and that we were only paying them a casual visit, but the men refused to listen.”

The Hindu extremists in Halaga village, near Belgaum city, Belgaum District also ignored the pleas of his wife’s family that day, April 5. The men took Pastor Bhandari outside, where 50 to 60 Hindu extremists were waiting, he said.

The mob paraded him a mile to the rented worship hall where he has led Sunday services for five years, hitting and kicking him along the way, he said.

“They continued to hit me as they dragged me,” said Pastor Bhandari, a resident of Belgaum city. “They abused me and Jesus Christ in filthy language and pressured me to hail, ‘Jai Sri Ram [Hail lord Ram],’ as they beat me.”

The mob accused him of converting their community to Christianity and trying to convert the family he was visiting – though they are already Christian, he said.

“They hit me on my private parts, my face, chest and all over my body, accusing me of trying to convert my sister-in-law,” Pastor Bhandari told Morning Star News. “I tried telling them that the home belongs to my sister-in-law, and that they are already Christians and members of my church.”

The beating and slapping damaged one of his eardrums, he said, causing loss of hearing in that ear.

Shouting Hindu slogans, the mob accused the pastor of converting Santosh Satpute, formerly a Hindu. Satpute told Morning Star News he went before the mob and told them he believed in Christ of his own free will, and that nobody had forced him to change his religion.

Satpute said the mob assaulted him as he tried to help Pastor Bhandari.

“When we tried to rescue Pastor Sanjay, the mob assaulted me along with Pastor Sanjay, his wife, and his brother Bhimshen,” Satpute said. “I was hurt on my chest and my ear.”

The pastor’s wife was manhandled as she tried to shield her husband from the assault, he said. The 42-year-old Bhimshen Bhandari was also injured in the attack….

Pastor Bhandari said he has pastored the independent church for seven years without any opposition. He said he was shocked to see two people with whom he had enjoyed good relations among the assailants.

“I have been to their homes and have sat and had meals at their homes,” Pastor Bhandari said. “I was very shocked to see them among my assaulters.”

Charges Filed

When Pastor Bhandari initially went to the Shahapura police station, he was instructed to first go to a government hospital, and that police would then take action based on his medical report, he said.

He was hospitalized at the Belgaum Institute of Medical Sciences (BIMS) for treatment of his ear, private parts and injuries to his left shoulder and chest. Discharged on April 10, he continues treatment and medical examinations.

After initial hesitancy by police, Christian leaders on April 6 persuaded officers at the Shahapura police station to file charges against seven assailants for unlawful assembly, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint, provocation and criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code (First Information Report No. 0020/2021).

Pastor Bhandari’s attorney, M. Ramesh, told Morning Star News that only after giving a memorandum to higher officials did police register the pastor’s complaint.

“On the evening of the incident, we gave a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner of Belgaum,” Ramesh said. “I spoke to the media directly, and it was only then that the FIR was registered.”

No arrests have been made, according to the investigating officer at the Shahapura station. No action has been taken at this writing.

Though there have been no arrests, the investigating officer, identified only as Raghvendra, said the station has issued notice to the seven suspects to appear before police. He said the investigation was complete….

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