In a bloody attack unleashed allegedly by the right-wing groups in the wee hours of Wednesday, November 25, scores of tribal Christians, both men and women, suffered serious injuries in a village in Sukma district of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
The victims were sleeping in a pandal, after attending the dedication (religious ceremony) of a child of one Mukka family.
According to sources, many tribal Christians suffered injuries in the bloody attack. The incident took place at Chingawaram village of Sukma district in tribal heartland of Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
A group of miscreants reached the tribal village at around 2am on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Christian villagers were fast asleep, after the religious function. They attacked the villagers with iron rods and lathis, the sources said.
“The Christians were attacked at 2am when they were sleeping after a community function in their village Chingawaram, under Gadiras police station, in Sukma district,” Pastor Chinnam Wycliff Sagar told UCA News.
Pastor Sagar is the priest of the New Bathsada Church, Sukma, of which the Mukka family is a member. He said that the miscreants apparently targeted the Christian villagers at Chingawaram, after the function.
“A group of close to 50 attackers armed with iron rods and lathis attacked them without any provocation. As many as 15 people suffered injuries in the bloody attack, 4 of them were serious,” he said.
Bloody attacks on Christians for their faith
Police registered a case against 16 persons and began a probe into what they believe is a case of revelry.
Christian groups, however, denied the police version and said, it was a communal attack on the Christians to force them to give up their faith in Christ.
“Our people were attacked for their faith in Jesus”, said Pastor Moses Logan, president of Chhattisgarh State Christian Welfare Society.
“The indigenous Christians in the state are under pressure from the right-wing Hindu groups and others opposed to Christianity, to give up their faith. But still they are holding on with their faith. This kind of attacks is an attempt to terrorise Christians. We will not give up our faith under such threats,” he said.
A senior officer from Gadiras police station has said that 45 cops have been deployed in Chingawaram village to ensure peace.
He confirmed that 16 persons have been named in the first information report and a search for them is underway. “We are hopeful of nabbing them in a day or two,” he said.
Attacks on Christians on the rise in Chhattisgarh
Attacks on tribal Christians are on the rise in Chhattisgarh state. Many incidents of bloody attack on Christians and their worship places have reported in the recent past. But it seems the Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government in the state is apparently downplaying the incidents for its political convenience of toeing the line with the ground rhythm set by the Hindu right wing forces.
Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel denied the media reports that the attack on the Christians was connected to religious conversion.
Baghel urged people not to communalise the violence, saying it was the outcome of rivalry among the villagers.
Christian leaders, however, said persecution against Christians has increased drastically in Chhattisgarh under the rule of the secular Congress party.
Congress party came to power in 2018, ending the 15-year reign of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.
The state government, Christian leaders said, did not take the complaints of Christians seriously for fear of branding the government as minority-friendly.
Christians make up 1.92 percent of the state’s population of 30 million. Hindus account for 93.25 percent including indigenous people demanding a separate religious identity away from Hinduism.
Chhattisgarh has become the third most dangerous state for Christians in India after Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, according to the latest report of Persecution Relief.
In the first nine months of 2020, the state recorded 39 incidents of persecution, up from 21 in the entire previous year, said the Christian group.
Villagers threatened with dire consequences
Right-wing Hindu groups accuse Christians of converting gullible tribal people to Christianity through allurements, a charge the Christians deny.
The Hindu groups also term the charitable work done by Christians as a facade to lure indigenous people into Christianity.
A Christian leader in Chhattisgarh, who pleaded anonymity, said a group of people attacked the tribal Christian villagers with weapons. Several Christians, both men and women, suffered injuries in the bloody attack. The miscreants ransacked their houses and properties. They also have threatened the poor villagers with dire consequences, he added.
He said there have been similar incidents of attacks on Christians in Bastar. The state government must take stringent action against those trying to disrupt peace in the region, he added.
‘Dispute’ between two families, says police
Meanwhile the police maintained that it was a “clash”, in which four people suffered injuries.
Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sunderraj P told TOI on Wednesday afternoon that the superintendent of police and other officials had reached the village in the morning. The injured were under treatment and the process for registration of an FIR was on. No arrest has so far been made, he added.
Sukma district collector Vineet Nandanwar told reporters that the situation was well under control in the Chingawaram village. He said there was a ‘dispute’ between two families over a function. However, officials had meeting with local sarpanch and elders to prevent recurrence of any incident in the future, he said.
Fact-finding team demands impartial probe
Bloody attacks on tribal Christians are on the rise in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. Many incidents have reported in the recent past.
In October, a fact-finding team of social and civil rights activists had toured the affected villages in Bastar. Activist Medha Patkar led the team. The team demanded from the government to conduct an impartial probe into the incidents of violence against tribal Christians.
The team, comprising members of the National Alliance of Peoples Movement (NAPM), the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and other organisations, such as the Chhattisgarh Citizens for Joint Action Committee (CCJAC), observed that police have not been proactive in taking action against those involved in attacks.
Sudden spurt in violent attacks
After visiting the state, Patkar told reporters that there has been a sudden spurt in violent and bloody attacks on tribal Christians, in Bastar. She pointed out that such incidents have taken place mostly in Kondagaon, Sukma, Bastar and Dantewada districts of the region.
In some cases, the fact finding team observed that the police and the revenue department have taken some delayed action. She demanded from the state government to register FIRs with proper sections against those involved in such bloody attacks.
The team had visited 13 affected villages and met about 30 tribal Christian families. It has gathered information about the growing incidents of attack on tribal Christians. The team said they would release a detailed report soon. It also demanded from the Bhupesh Baghel government to take proper action to restore peace and harmony in the region.