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Christian persecution escalates in southern states of India

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Christians in the southern states of India are facing an increase in the persecution. A religious freedom advocacy group Allaince Defending Freedom (ADF) says that in the states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala no less than 60 cases of Christian persecution were reported from January till September 2018.

Indian Christians

As compared to this record, 36 cases of Christian persecution were reported in first nine months of 2017. Reverend Sagaya Raj, Deputy Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Bishops Council (Roman Catholic) told a media outlet that: “In Tamil Nadu, RSS activists are provoking the Hindus in their speeches at public gatherings to cause communal tension. The current situation is alarming – our state was a peace-loving state, and we lived in harmony. The recent attacks on Christian community are very disturbing.”

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A Christian woman revealed that on September 13, an elderly Christ woman was attacked by a mob of Hindus in Veppur village, Vellore District. She told that Hindus were carrying idol of their god in a procession. Four men stopped the elderly Christian woman and started rebuking her for using the road.

“One was yelling, ‘You converted to Christianity, and you are an ‘untouchable’ – how can you use the road when our Vinayagar [Ganesha in Tamil] is passing from here? You are impure, and now you made the road impure by walking on it,’” she said.

“They became very aggressive, so that they started beating her. The entire neighborhood belongs to nomadic tribes – they are not upper castes over us, yet the Hindu gypsies hate us and treat us like untouchables.” Christians nearby rushed to rescue the elderly lady from the hands of the mobsters. The mobsters hurled stoned at the Christians who came to rescue the elderly woman.

It is not just about religious procession, “ they always had problems with Christians using the road. They warned us several times in the past. They tell us, ‘We belong to RSS, and you are Christians. We cannot both walk on the same road. If you see us passing by, go inside your houses and don’t come out until we are gone.”

Another similar incident was reported in Tamil Nadu on September 2, when members of RSS stormed into a Christian family’s house during an evening prayer service. A witness said: “The Christian family prepared a vegetarian meal and had invited all the neighboring families, and also their church members and relatives, over for dinner.”

“At first, the RSS members disrupted the prayer service, then they raided the kitchen. They were searching for beef forbidden in Hinduism. For the first time, I saw a family’s kitchen, utensils, fridge and dishes being searched for beef, just because they are Christian,” he said. “The RSS people had put their hands in the food searching for beef, making it unsafe to consume.”

In Telangana state, a pastor was attacked by Hindu extremists from the RSS. On September, the pastor went to the site of under construction house. “Four men barged inside and started beating me. They said, ‘How dare you construct a church here?’ and abused me in extreme vulgar language,” the 49-year old victim unfolded.

The assailants told him to take permission from the village council in order to construct the building. The pastor was dragged to the council’s office. “They punched me in my stomach and back at the council’s office, and then they brought me back to the construction site,” the pastor said.

The assailants forced the pastor to demolish the walls of his house. “I could only destroy only a portion of the wall and was exhausted,” he said. “I told them that I can’t do it and pleaded them to leave me. But they took me to the police station and asked the station house officer to book a case against me that I was constructing a church in the area.”

When the police officers were informed that the pastor had obtained legal permission for the construction the police instead booked the four assailants under charges of attempt to murder, causing public nuisance, intentionally causing hurt, mischief causing damage and promoting enmity.