Along with an off-duty police officer, radical Hindu nationalists attacked Christians during a private prayer gathering.
About three weeks ago, a mob of right-wing Hindu fundamentalists, accompanied by an off-duty police officer, launched an attack on a private home where the Christians had gathered for a prayer meeting in the east-central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Roughly 15 Christians were physically assaulted.
After the incident, the local police refused to file a complaint, claiming they didn't have permission to register any case related to Christian persecution.
According to the UK-based human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the mob initiated the attack on the Christian's home at around 9 pm on the night of October 21st in Chhattisgarh state's Sukma District. The attackers also demanded that the Christians renounce their faith, CSW added.
The victims who suffered minor injuries later claimed that an off-duty officer, identified only as Kitto, was among the mob.
After the attack, the victims tried registering a complaint at the Gollapalli Police Station of Sukma district. However, they could not contact the police as police personnel were not on duty after 6 pm as the area is under the influence of Naxalite-Maoist insurgents.
By contacting the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CGCF), the victims could talk with the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Sukma District. The SP then assured them that the police would take legal action and directed them to the police station.
However, the following day on October 22nd, when the victims went to register a First Information Report (FIR), the Station House Officer (SHO) allegedly verbally abused them, insulted their religion, and refused to accept their complaints. The SHO did not file the requisite medico-legal case, which would have enabled a thorough investigation for the injuries the Christians sustained, and also failed to respond to the calls of CGCF.
On October 23rd, the victims again went to the police station, hoping that the police may reconsider their decision to register their complaint. However, the SHO ordered Kitto and a police officer identified as Major to beat the victims. The complainants included women and a Christian constable, a pastor from the same police station, who was present among those assaulted on October 21st.
Even when the matter was reported to the Director General of Police, Inspector General, and Superintendent of Police, the SHO did not register the Christian's complaint. He claimed that his superiors forbid him to register FIRs related to the oppression of Christians in the district.
It was not an isolated incident of Chhattisgarh police overlooking the attacks on Christians.
Here's an assault in the capital Raipur last year. https://t.co/ovXSXWPT5S
— Ashutosh Bhardwaj (@ashubh) October 25, 2022
On October 25th, 2022, the government suspended three police officers, including the Christian constable. Arun Pannalal, the President of the CGCF, has told CSW that under Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code, the three police personnel were arrested, which is usually used for cases when two communities have fought with each other; however, in this case, it was blatantly clear that one group was targeting another.
CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "The persistent targeting of Christians by right-wing religious fundamentalists, including in their own homes, is extremely worrying, as are frequent allegations of law enforcement complicity in attacks perpetrated against religious minorities. We urge authorities in Chhattisgarh to take firm legal action against police personnel who have had a hand in such incidents and urge the government to issue a clear message that such behavior by law enforcement officers will not be tolerated. We also call on the authorities to ensure that the victims of this attack receive all the necessary medical and legal support they require and to provide assurances that they can gather safely to practice their religion in public and in private."
The Supreme Court of India directed eight states, including Chhattisgarh, to justify the claims of Christian groups that filed a petition for protection after around 200 attacks were reported within the first five months of 2022.