The Chhattisgarh High Court has sought the official response of Kondagaon Collector, SP and the state government after the attack on tribals who had voluntarily converted to Christianity recently. The Christian families had alleged that they were harassed, threatened, and homes were vandalised by some locals who were angry that they had adopted Christanity.
According to news reports, in September the members of the Christian community living in the villages of Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh had lodged a police complaint alleging that the locals were harassing them and that they feared for their lives and property. “The Christians are being beaten up, their properties ransacked and intimidated in spite of the presence of senior officials such as Collector and SP. As many as 10 Christian families from different villages have approached cops for protection from the mobs. The affected families are living in an absolute helpless situation”, Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum had told the Indian Express then.
A news report in the Dainik Bhasker stated that around 16 tribal families filed a petition in the High Court through their advocate Pravin Tulsian. It stated that they are from Kakadabeda, Tiliabeda and Singanpur villages of Kondagaon district, and had converted to Christianity on their own accord in September 2020. However, this angered a group in his village who then held meetings on September 19 and 20, and eventually ‘reported’ the conversion at the local police station on September 20. On September 22, the angry villagers came together as a violent mob, allegedly attacked the Christian houses and damaged property. They allegedly attacked again on September 23.
According to news reports the mobs were demanding that the Christians tribals “return to the tribal folds if they wish to live in the villages”. The Christian families were told to worship the native deities if they wished to continue living in the villages. Arun Pannalal, had alleged that a mob of around 2,000 villagers had ransacked the houses of at least 14 Christian families and also thrashed members of the community in Kakdabeda, Silati and Singanpur on September 22 and 23. These families, with over 50 members, were being pressured to quit their faith, he had alleged.
The Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P was quoted by the media saying, “there are a few families which have been following Christianity for the last five-six years. The tribal community in these villages had some issues with these people who allegedly did not follow local customs and observe local festivals. This led to tension in the area. After being alerted about the situation, senior officials reached the spot on Wednesday and pacified the villagers. Presently the situation is peaceful.”
On October 12, the victims submitted a memorandum to the area SP and Collector. On October 14, one Shivram Poyam and others were arrested by registering crimes. The SDM later granted bail. Later, four, including Shivram, were arrested for instigating communal frenzy. The Executive Magistrate gave them bail. However, the villagers got so scared that they left their homes and fled, reported Dainik Bhasker.
The case was heard by Justice P. Sam Koshy and the court has now directed the police station in-charge to make arrangements to send everyone back home safely. The tribal Chirstians had stated that they feared for their lives and were not able to return home. The High Court directed all the defendants including SP Kondagaon, Collector to submit their reply as an affidavit. According to the news report the Additional Advocate General has assured the court that instructions were being given to SP Kondagaon that the petitioners could reach their homes without any hindrance. There is no fear of losing their life and property in any way.
From August 2020 to October 2020, Persecution Relief, an organisation that provides support to persecuted Christians in India, has recorded 157 cases of such hate crimes. While Uttar Pradesh was at the top of the three Indian states with most attacks on the community, Chhattisgarh with 16 cases was second, while Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand share the third spot with 14 anti-Christians attacks. According to Shibu Thomas who heads the organisation, Tribal and Dalit Christians are one of the most persecuted Christian groups in the country. The report details a recent case where 15 homes were destroyed and 11 Tribal Christian families were boycotted for their faith. “Although inexhaustive, as many cases of Christian persecution are not reported due to fear, these numbers conclude that two Christians are persecuted for their faith in India, everyday! This must not be taken lightly! The conspiracies against the Christian minority in India have now become innumerable and inconceivable. Be it the amendment of the Constitution, the New Education Policy, rumors of the National Anti-Conversion Law, discrimination of Dalit Christians, hate campaigns on social media, our authorities are leaving no stone unturned,” Shibu Thomas had stated a statement that accompanied the report.
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