A mob of nearly 20 people shouting “Jai Shri Ram” and hailing India as a Hindu nation vandalised a church and assaulted members of the Christian community in Delhi’s Tahirpur on Sunday.
In his complaint to the police, pastor Satpal Bhati said that the attack took place at around 10.40 am during a prayer meeting.
A first information report filed by the police said that the mob entered the church shouting slogans and assaulted Christians, including women, with sticks. According to the FIR, a copy of which is available with Scroll, the mob also vandalised pictures of Jesus and tried to tear up the Bible. They dragged some men outside before beating them, Bhati said.
A video shared by Democracy News India shows musical instruments were also vandalised. Members of the Christian community alleged that drums were torn using a knife.
“I hope some investigation is done or else anybody can come and beat us [Christians] up,” Bhati said. He alleged that the vandals belonged to the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The pastor said that when he and a few others went to the GTB Enclave Police Station to file a complaint regarding the attack, a larger mob of nearly 100 people from the Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishva Hindu Parishad gathered outside and shouted “Jai Shri Ram”, The Wire reported.
Bhati added that he had not faced a situation like this in over a decade.
“When people in this country are not safe in their own land, there is no situation left to survive in,” Bhati told The Wire. “We have been praying here for 13 years, and I have never encountered a situation like the one we faced today. The Christian community lives in constant fear, fearing for their lives.”
A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh alleged that the church was trying to convert Hindus.
“Why were they praying in a Hindu-majority area,” Anmol, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker, told The Wire. “Our festival, Rakshabandhan, is coming up in a few days, and we will not allow conversion prayers in our area.”
The police have booked unknown persons under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 295 (destruction of a place of worship), 296 (Disturbing religious assembly), 298 (words, etc with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings), 354 (using assault or criminal force against a woman), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) of the Indian Penal Code.
Attacks on Christians
Over the last few years, there have been several instances of Hindutva groups attacking churches and Christian prayer halls after accusing them of engaging in forced conversions.
In June, the principal of a school in Maharashtra’s Pune district was assaulted allegedly by members of a Hindutva outfit that claimed that students had been asked to sing a Christian prayer.
In June last year, police officials in Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district had raided a Christian prayer hall after a Hindutva group claimed that forced religious conversions were being carried out there. On February 25, 2022, a Christian pastor alleged he was assaulted by a mob in Delhi that accused him of being on a conversion mission.
In a report released in December 2021, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties had listed 39 incidents of violence against Christians in Karnataka alone, between January 2021 and November 2021.
Another fact-finding report released in December 2021 gad found 305 attacks had taken place on the members of the Christian community across India between January and September last year. The report was a joint initiative of non-governmental organisations Association for Protection of Civil Rights, the United Christian Forum and United Against Hate.