Date: July 16, 2021
Church member apparently pressured into giving false statement.
By Our Southern India Correspondent
JK (Juggilal Kamlapati) temple in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. (Udayraj, Creative Commons)
HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Hard-line Hindus in northern India who attacked a young Christian woman have filed fabricated charges against her father – basing their case on testimony from a Christian relative apparently pressured into giving a false statement, sources said.
The father, Shriram Gautam, was charged with outraging the modesty of a woman and other baseless accusations after he rushed out of his house on May 24 to rescue his daughter from hard-line Hindus in Mansura village, Kanpur District, Uttar Pradesh state. The drunken Hindus had attacked 23-year-old Anamika Gautam with lathis (bamboo clubs bound with iron) and steel rods, vowing to publicly humiliate and beat her and her father to death, she said.
“They told me that I belong to a family which carries out forced conversions, and that they do not have any respect for such people,” said Anamika Gautam, who had been studying on the front porch of her house when the hard-line Hindus showed up and began taunting her. “They spewed venomous curses as they continued to beat me and attempted to touch inappropriately.”
She told them to leave her alone, and they began beating her, she said. Her father and younger brother heard her screams and came out of the house running, telling the Hindus to cool down and return to their homes, she said.
“But they were adamant that we must be butchered to death for converting people in the locality to Christianity,” Anamika Gautam told Morning Star News. “We told them that nobody accepts Christian faith because of us, that it is the Lord who calls people to Him; it is not our human effort. But they would not understand a word.”
The four suspects identified in the First Information Report filed by Akbarpur police as Aditya, Gajendra, Adarsh, and Subash are known in the area for mischief and sexual harassment, she said. Soon parents of two of the assailants, also with lathis and steel rods, joined them, Anamika Gautam said.
“They were only four at first when they started uttering obscenities, but two of them went and called their parents. Their fathers also charged towards us with lathis and rods,” she said.
Anamika Gautam said that Ajay Pal and a man identified only as Ramesh, fathers of two of the assailants, began beating her father and brother, and that three onlookers came to their aid but were also beaten.
She said she began videorecording the assault on her mobile phone, but the assailants seized it from her.
“They kicked and punched me, touched inappropriately and tore my clothes,” Gautam told Morning Star News.
She and her injured father went to the Akbarpur police station the next day, but officials refused to listen to them or take action against the assailants, she said. There the Christian family learned that Pal’s wife, Sona, who had attended their home worship and said she had become a Christian, was apparently pressured into joining her Hindu relatives in filing a complaint of forcible conversion against her family, Gautam said.
“In the complaint filed against us, she accused my family and church members of forced conversions by threats and inducement,” Gautam said. “Further, she falsely alleged that my father and brother and the neighbors who rescued us from the beating entered the house and attempted to abuse her, and that her clothes were also torn by them.”
In the complaint, Sona alleges that the attack took place while her husband and children were at work in fields far from her home, Gautam said.
“If the attack really took place when they were away at work, how can they arrive hearing her screams and be regarded as eyewitnesses?” she said. “It was shocking to see that a person who was joining us in prayers until the day of the attack came under pressure from her husband and son and falsely testified against us.”
Based on the false statement, Akbarpur police charged Shriram Gautam, son Saurabh Gautam and neighbors who came to their rescue under sections of the Indian Penal Code for house-trespass with preparation for assault (Section 452), outraging the modesty of a woman (Section 354), breach of peace (Section 504), criminal intimidation (Section 506) and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intentions (Section 34).
“We went to the police station to seek their help, but they booked cases against us and arrested my father,” Gautam said. “Despite the injuries he suffered the previous day, the officers did not send him for medical exam and treatment.”
Her father remained in custody the night of May 25 and was released the next day due to COVID-19 risks in the jail, she said.
The assailants have also falsely accused her father of stealing a Hindu temple bell, she said, adding that they have conditioned withdrawal of the false charges against her family on him paying a fine or buying a new bell.
A representative of Alliance Defending Freedom-India’s Uttar Pradesh Legal Aid Cell called on higher officials to register the complaint filed by Gautam and her father. As a result, officials at Akbarpur police station charged Pal, Aditya Kumar, Adarsh, Gajendra, Subash, and Ramesh under sections of the IPC for house-trespass with preparation for assault, outraging the modesty of a woman, voluntarily causing hurt (Section 323), causing breach of peace, criminal intimidation and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intentions.
“But no action has been initiated against the assailants, and they are roaming free,” Gautam said. “There still is a threat to our lives and constant harassment from their supporters in the area. We request prayers for the accusations and false cases to be cleared.”
As the number of Christians is growing rapidly in the area, converts are facing harassment on a daily basis, she said.
“As we pass by on the road, they either threaten us or abuse us in extremely filthy language,” Gautam said. “I know and fully believe that even if the world is against us, the Lord is on our side. He is a faithful God, and He is always there for us.”
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, 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 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2020. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Modi came to power.