Members of the Christian community, who congregated for Sunday prayers on April 30 at a house in Chhattisgarh’s Patan, were attacked allegedly by Bajrang Dal members, reported The Wire.
Individuals chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ reportedly disrupted the prayers and accused the attendees of the Chhattisgarh’s Patan house of forcing people to convert to Christianity.
The incident, which took place in Patan, Chhattisgarh, was recorded on video by members of the Christian community who had locked themselves inside the house out of fear. Patan is a constituency represented by the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, who is the head of the state’s Congress government. The attack occurred at around midday.
Speaking to The Wire, Lalchand Sahu, who was present inside the house, said, “We were sitting inside the house. At 12:30 pm, around 30-35 people came with lathis and started hitting our doors, asking us to open the door. Once we refused to open the door, they started abusing us and chanting Jai Shree Ram.”
Victims of the attack in Patan, Chhattisgarh, recorded videos showing the assailants using lathis to hit the door of the house and demanding the people inside to open it. When the victims refused to open the door, the attackers threw water at them and hurled abuses. The victims reported that they had contacted the police over the phone, but the police arrived at the location only an hour later. Members of the minority community stated that the nearest police station from the site was approximately 500 meters away.
The victims accused the police of not taking action against the attackers and instead questioning them, while also taking around 10-12 members from the Christian community into custody. Those detained by the police included Dr. Vinay Sahu, Krishnakant Kurrey, Archana Sahu, Veena Sahu, Seeta Kurrey, Abhishek Sahu, Narendra Sahu, Rohit Sahu, Kumari Nishad, and Keti Nishad.
Arun Pannalal, president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, alleged that police let off Bajrang Dal members while taking into custody his community members. “Even police were also alleging that we are converting people to Christianity. There were 300-400 people from Bajrang Dal present inside the police station premises, and they were allowed to be there. But people who came to the police station from outside were taken into custody under Section 151 (knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sent to jail. Bajrang Dal members were let off,” Pannalal added.
Preeti Sahu, 30, whose husband Vinay Sahu was taken into police custody, expressed that the Christian community is living in constant fear because of the increasing attacks on their community by right-wing organizations in the state. She stated that people had voluntarily joined the prayers and had come only to pray, not to create any disturbances. “We have been living here for six years and it is not the first time something like this has happened. In the past too, people took us to the police station. And, the police asked us not to pray,” she said.
The videos shared by the Christian community also revealed that some attackers abused the minority community members while they were in police custody, and the police remained silent. The police reportedly arrested members of the minority community under Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code.
The attack on Christians in Patan, Chhattisgarh, is not an isolated incident, as there have been previous instances of Christians being targeted in the state. Chhattisgarh is the second-highest state in India in terms of the number of attacks on Christians, with Uttar Pradesh leading the list. According to a report by the United Christian Forum (UCF), there has been a significant increase of 400% in cases of violence against the Christian community in the country, rising from 147 in 2014 to 598 in 2022. The top five states with the most reported incidents are Uttar Pradesh with 186, Chhattisgarh with 132, Jharkhand with 51, Karnataka with 37, and Tamil Nadu with 33.