HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – On a recent Monday at noon in southern India, a pastor’s family in Telangana state noticed motorcycles parked outside their church gate and a gang of young men loudly reading the church banner.
The banner of the church in Ramachandrapuram village, Karimngar District, included 2 Cor. 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you” in Telugu, the language spoken in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, along with a name and phone number, the pastor told Morning Star News.
“We thought the youths had come to quench their thirst at the hand-pump,” Pastor Kolhapuri Lachaiah Moses said. “The youths started shouting, ‘Where is the pastor idiot? Who gave you Christians the permission to set up a church here? You Shudras! Idiots! How dare you do Christian activities here?’”
Shudras are a low-caste group in India.
“I came out running and asked, “What happened, babu? Why are you shouting?” said the 52-year-old father of three. “I could smell the stink of alcohol. They were drunk.”
He told them he was the pastor and politely asked them what had happened, he said, but they continued making derogatory caste remarks. His son, Kolhapuri Prabhakar, came out, urged them not to shout and asked what was the matter.
“But they became aggressive, and started hitting my elderly father,” Kolhapuri Prabhakar told Morning Star News. “When I tried to stop them, they punched me too. My mother and sister also rushed to help us, only to be pushed away by the drunk men. They yelled, ‘We have been looking for you for the past six months, we got you today. We will not stop now.’”
Pastor Moses said his youngest son, 20-year-old Kolhapuri Immanuel, insisted the assailants be handed over to police and dialed the police emergency service line, and then family members tried to confine the six young men until officers could arrive.
Before police arrived, one of the young men picked up a large boulder and threw it on Kolhapuri Immanuel’s right foot, and two of the young men escaped, Pastor Moses said.
“He howled in pain, but they did not stop there,” he said.
Kolhapuri Immanuel, who underwent foot surgery for a fractured fifth metacarpal, said they continued beating them.
“Two of them held me by my hands, while the other threw that huge stone on my foot. I could not bear that pain,” the 20-year-old said.
Counter Case Filed against Christians
Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police Abdul Kareem told Morning Star News that officers identified the drunken young men as members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a Hindu nationalist student group affiliated with the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Kolhapuri Prabhakar filed a complaint at the Ramadugu Mandal police station and rushed his younger brother to a hospital. Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Kalikota Sai Krishna, 20; Kanaparthi Sai Sunil, 19; and Chaviti Sathya Shiva and Edavelli Karthik, both 20, under sections of the India Penal Code (IPC) prohibiting trespass, voluntarily causing hurt and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, among others.
A counter FIR, however, was filed against the Christian family under IPC sections against intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, public nuisance and voluntarily causing hurt, Sub-Inspector of Police Naresh Reddy told Morning Star News.
A police official who requested anonymity added, “In the pastor’s family’s attempt to catch the culprits and hand them to the police, two Hindu youths also got injured in the scuffle.”
The police source said officers came under strong pressure from higher authorities to register a counter case against the Christians.
“The accused ABVP youth have connections with the political leaders at state and central levels,” the source said. “We came under severe pressure and registered a counter case against the Christians, but only as non-cognizable offenses [wherein no arrest can be made without a warrant]. The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] politicians are trying their best to bail out the [Hindu] accused.”
Kolhapuri Prabhakar said he had no idea how the sections of the law filed against the Christian family members can be applied to them. The assailants did not register the FIR against them, he said.
“It was the police who registered the FIR, and they now are pressuring and threatening us that we made false claims,” he told Morning Star News. “Now the police are threatening us that we filed a false case to seek vengeance for the attack. It is not true. That is not our intention. It was the police who levied the sections; we forgave our attackers and are ready to withdraw the case also.”
Police officers insulted him as a lower-caste Dalit, he added.
“The police called me and asked if I am human or animal,” he said. “They asked why am I unable to submit the medical reports, but the staff at Karimnagar General Hospital are refusing to issue the reports.”
After many requests, the hospital staff finally wrote on a small slip of paper that Kolhapuri Immanuel had a fifth metacarpal fracture and gave it to him,
Kolhapuri Prabhakar said. After surgery on March 7, doctors advised complete bed rest for three months.
Kolhapuri Prabhakar said he is devoted to Bible reading, prayer and ministry work and has no knowledge of legal cases.
“But look at what God is bringing us through,” he said. “My Lord gives me the courage and strength to talk to these police. They are threatening, abusing, calling names, but I have been patient and will continue to be so. It is pure joy that the Lord chose me for this battle.”
The family requested prayer for healing of Kolhapuri Immanuel’s foot and their ministry work.
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.
India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.