Woven in the tapestry of the country, religion in India, has always been a topic that is sensitive and unavoidable. Over the years, the poison of religious nationalism has crept into the remotest and most far-flung parts of the country. Minorities in India have always faced the wrath of the majority, but the problem has exacerbated since the BJP government coming into power.
Last month, a Christian man was almost killed by religious fanatics in Odisha, reported Countercurrents.org. A month after the incident, Kama Sodi is a sorry sight, with his body reduced to mere skin and bones. A resident of Kodalmetla village in Malkangiri, Sodi found it more difficult to survive after his childrens’ deaths when local religious goons threatened his and his wife’s lives, only because they had found a faith that made sense to them.
Kama had run out of options to find a cure for his sickness. He met Kosha Muchaki who pastors the little congregation which meets at his uncle’s home. Through him he converted to Christianity.
On the March 11 2020, at around 1PM in the afternoon, 10 people including Kama had gathered at Mala’s home to pray. During the meeting, a few religious fanatics who were under the influence of alcohol, barged into the house. They created a chaos, beating up their own neighbours and accusing them of converting people to Christianity. What was astonishing was that they were the same people who had pointed out Kama and Mala to the Church. When their rage died down, they warned the Christians to never gather to pray again.
The next morning, when Sodi stepped outside his home, he was wrapped in fear. His home was surrounded by the same fanatics that had attacked him the previous night along with a few more locals who had joined in. They were all wielding bamboo sticks and had a tractor trolley with them. A few of them ran towards Kama and began to beat him up with the bamboo sticks while the others rushed into Kama’s home and started taking out Kama’s household items, including the TV, utensils, furniture etc. and loading it onto the trolley of the tractor. All Kama’s family could do was to scream and yell for help. Sadly, the spectators were held captive by fear and did not interfere. A few men then drove the tractor around 3kms away to a piece of land which belongs to Kama and dumped all the items there.
Sodi was beaten with sticks on his head, back and legs so mercilessly that he fell unconscious to the ground. He was later admitted to the Malkangiri BSS Government hospital where he received treatment for severe internal and external injuries for almost a week. He reportedly went into a coma for one and a half days.
According to Morning Star News, Sodi’s assailants were tribal animists, worshippers of the tribal religion. His wife, Bhimeshwari told the publication, “Even while suffering in their hands, my husband refused to give up his faith. They declared that they would allow a chance for him to live if he declared that he had renounced Christ. But my husband declined their offer and chose to suffer.”
Pastor Kosha Muchaki lodged a complaint with the Malkangiri Police station after he got to know about the incident. The police addressed the matter and spoke to the people who had harassed Sodi. They also made sure to return all the items that were taken away from Sodi’s house.
In a conversation with Persecution Relief, Pastor Kosha said, “After all these weeks, Kama is still in terrible pain. Most of the items that were taken out of the house were brought back damaged or destroyed, but he is very sure about his Christian faith.”
Not only this, Kama and his wife have also been shunned and are treated as untouchables in their ancestral village. The villagers don’t allow Sodi’s wife to draw water from the common bore-well in the village. Sodi wife said, “My husband and I close the doors and pray quietly; we are not afraid of tomorrow. We are socially banished from this village and have been treated as untouchables. They do not allow us to even walk on the road, and they believe that if we walk on it, it would be defiled. But our Lord is with us. We are seeking comfort in spending time with Lord Jesus.”
Now, the Covid-19 lockdown has added to Kama’s misery. Speaking to Persecution Relief, Kama said, “The fanatics are still threatening us, but where do we go? We have no other options!”
Bhimeshwari was hoping to work extra hours to earn some money while Sodi was recovering, but the lockdown quashed that idea. The things that assailants had thrown out also consisted of the little amount of foodgrains they had. When those were brought back, she saw that mud had piled up on them.
The small plot of land yields 20 to 30 bags of food grains, and what they are unable to sell they store as food for the remainder of the year, she said. Now those grains are gone, and villagers are ostracizing them economically, she said.
“Nobody wants to offer us work, and we are happy with whatever God provides us,” Sodi said. “I’m washing the mud off the few food grains I could gather from the floor and am cooking them for the children. My husband and I are having whatever leftovers there are once a day. The rest of the time, we would prefer to starve. If the children eat and go to sleep, we would be contented in that.”