About 100 Christians who were forced to flee from their ancestral villages in India’s Chhattisgarh state have returned, following a court order. Almost two months ago a mob of alleged Hindu right-wing activists had attacked them and driven them out of their homes.
The Bilaspur bench of the Chhattisgarh High Court last week ordered the Kondagaon district administration to facilitate safe return of the Christians displaced from three villages. The court also directed the district administration to ensure protection of the driven out Christians.
“We have returned to our villages as the court has ordered our protection,” Shiv Ram, one of the petitioners to the court, told UCA News on November 17.
Ram said all 66 Christians from 10 families driven out of his Kakrabeda village have returned to the village. Some 30 Christians from six families, who fled from two other villages, also have returned, he said.
16 Christian houses in 3 villages attacked
Some suspected Hindu right-wing activists attacked 16 houses in three villages in the Bastar region on September 22 and 23. The attack came after the Christians refused a demand to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ.
The fundamentalists attacked the Christians, including women and children, in front of the police. Also, they forced them to flee to a nearby forest to save their lives.
Following the court order, the administration has set up a police check post and posted 12 police officers to ensure safety of the Christians. “But, we don’t feel safe and are worried about our lives,” Ram said. All the 66 people cook, eat, and live together in a temporary shelter, as their houses were destroyed, he added.
Ram said the miscreants attacked them in front of the police. “No one came to our rescue at that time,” he said. He also expressed lack of confidence in the police assurances.
Christians ostracised by other villagers
The villagers of other castes also ostracised them for accepting Christ and abandoning their traditional beliefs.
“We have not converted to Christianity. We are still following the indigenous lifestyle. The only difference is that we began to change our hearts to trust in Jesus Christ,” Ram said.
“A change of heart is different from religious conversion. We used to attend our traditional practices and contribute money for traditional festivals, but still, we are attacked.”
Ram said the villagers attacked the Christians as the Hindu activists, who oppose tribal people becoming Christians, instigate them. “But we are not going to change our faith in Jesus,” he asserted.
He said that the government had promised compensation for the damage to our houses and household articles.
“Officials visited our homes and collected details of the damage. However we are not sure, when they would compensate us,” Ram said.
Struggle for justice will continue: Pastor Logan
Pastor Moses Logan said the struggle for justice would continue. “We have petitioned the state’s chief minister and other top government officials seeking justice for the attacked Christians.”
“We will continue our fight till the culprits were punished; and all of us were compensated fully”, he said. Pastor Logan is the president of the Chhattisgarh State Christian Welfare Society.
According to a Persecution Relief report, published on the persecution against Christians in India, Chhattisgarh has become the third most dangerous state for Christians in India, after Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In the first nine months of 2020, the state recorded 39 incidents of persecution. It was 21 in the previous year, the report stated.