09/11/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian pastor in India’s Chhattisgarh state was attacked and beaten by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists while in a police station in Raipur. The attack has shocked the Christian community who now feel that their safety cannot be guaranteed even in the presence of India’s police.
On September 5, Pastor Ankush Bariayar was summoned to the Purani Basti Police Station in Raipur by the Station House Officer. According to local reports, Pastor Bariayar was falsely accused of engaging in illegal religious conversions by radical Hindu nationalists.
When Pastor Bariayar, accompanied by two other pastors, arrived at the police station, a mob of nearly 50 radical Hindu nationalists burst into the Station House Officer’s office and began to beat the pastor with shoes and fists.
“The entire thing happened as if it was well planned,” an eyewitness, who wished to remain anonymous, told ICC. “I think the police knew about the attack before it took place. It is sad that Christians are not safe even inside the police station.”
“They told me to my face that they would kill me,” Pastor Bariayar told ICC. “I thought I was safe, being with the police in their premises, but I was wrong. In the beginning, the police did not do anything to protect me from the attack. After they hit me with the shoe and punched me in my face, the police then tried to stop them from beating me.”
A First Information Report (FIR no. 0234) was filed against seven members of the mob that attacked Pastor Bariayar. At the time of writing, only two of the seven identified in the report have been arrested.
“Don’t we have the right to go to the police station and talk to the police?” Dr. Arun Pannalal, President of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, asked the media. “Why didn’t the police stop the attackers and protect Pastor Bariayar?”
“We have the right to choose any religion and propagate that religion,” Dr. Pannalal continued. “This is a fundamental right given by the constitution. The government must take the strictest action against the attackers who brazenly attacked the pastor. This needs to be taken to the highest level of law and order in the state.”
Radical Hindu nationalists across India continue to promote false narratives against Christians to justify religious intolerance and violence. The issue of illegal religious conversions is often used to vilify Christians and justify anti-Christian policies like anti-conversion laws.
In states where anti-conversion laws are enacted, including Chhattisgarh, they are widely abused. Radical Hindu nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply disturbed by this attack on Pastor Bariayar. The fact that it was allowed to happen in the police station in the presence of the Station House Officer indicates the impunity enjoyed by many radical Hindu nationalists. This is a symptom of a larger problem in India. Religious intolerance and religiously motivated violence have become so normalized that attacks on Christians in the presence of police, outside the station, have come to be expected. The only thing that has shocked Christians here is the location of the attack and not the attack itself. Strict action must be taken against the perpetrators of this attack and the police officers who have allowed this climate of impunity to exist.”