Date: September 23, 2022
Family members threatened to burn him alive, sources say.
By Our India Correspondent
Madhab Gorai. (Morning Star News)
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Christians in eastern India suspect a church member’s Hindu family killed him last month for refusing to renounce his faith, sources said.
In West Bengal state’s Gobindapur village, Jhargram District, Hindu relatives of Madhab Gorai had threatened to burn him to death and feared his faith jeopardized his daughter’s impending marriage, the sources said.
Church members last saw the 46-year-old Gorai on Aug. 7, when his wife and adult son disrupted the start of a church service and threatened him, said Ashish Hansda, lay leader in charge of the Church of North India (CNI) congregation in the village.
Gorai’s wife was carrying a bottle of gasoline, and his son was carrying a wooden baton, he said. In a scuffle outside the church building, Gorai’s wife and son threatened to burn him alive, Hansda said.
Gorai’s wife and son had pressured him to perform Hindu marriage rituals at his daughter’s impending wedding, where according to custom the father of the bride would be required to worship sacred fire, said the pastor in charge of the church, the Rev. Subendu Soren.
“Gorai refused to involve himself in Hindu worship practices that contradicted his Christian faith,” Pastor Soren told Morning Star News.
Gorai’s family had argued that his refusal to perform the Hindu rituals would raise doubts about the family that could lead to the breaking off of his daughter’s engagement, said a close friend of Gorai who requested anonymity.
When his wife and son disrupted the start of the Aug. 7 church service, Hansda intervened, and Gorai’s wife and son took him home, Hansda said.
“Unpleasantness was created due to the scuffle, and so we did not have a church service that Sunday,” he said.
When he learned of the incident, Pastor Soren advised Hansda to file a police complaint about Gorai’s family carrying gasoline and scuffling with him outside the church building. He filed a complaint at the Ramgarh outpost, which falls under the Lalgarh police station.
An officer at the Ramgarh outpost said he informed the Saranga Thana police station about the incident and sent a volunteer to check on the church the next Sunday, Aug. 14.
“Madhab Gorai’s house does not fall under my jurisdiction, so I did not take any action once they had gone home,” the officer told Morning Star News.
The in-charge at the Saranga Thana police station told Morning Star News that he was on leave during that period and had no knowledge of a death in the area.
Pastor Soren said no formal complaint was registered at the Saranga Thana police station.
“No formal complaint was registered in the police station by any of Madhab’s relatives, though people in the village knew the tension in their family about Madhab’s faith and had mixed feelings about the sudden death,” Pastor Soren told Morning Star News.
As Gorai’s wife and son repeatedly threatened to burn him alive and took him home on Aug. 7, Hansda was concerned about his safety and visited their home late that afternoon, he said.
“Madhab’s wife told me that he was not at home and had gone to the market,” Hansda said. “I left my phone number with his wife and requested her to ask him to give me a call.”
Hansda said he received a call from Pastor Soren at 11 that night informing him that a church member had said Gorai was dead.
The next day, when church members asked family members about Gorai’s death, the relatives said he had eaten dinner and died peacefully in his sleep. The family had cremated Gorai’s body that morning (Aug. 8) according to Hindu ritual, but none of the church members had been informed about it, Hansda said.
Hansda said he questioned several of Gorai’s neighbors about his death.
“All of them told me that there was tension in Madhab’s family related to his Christian faith, and they heard the arguments the family had,” he told Morning Star News. “One person also told me that Madhab was sitting and chatting with him until 6:30 in the evening, and he was absolutely fine.”
Christian leaders, eyewitnesses to the threats and several acquaintances in the area suspect Gorai’s family members killed him to avoid jeopardizing his daughter’s marriage.
“It is easy to say that the father of the bride is dead, and that the brother of the bride will perform those rituals in his absence,” said Gorai’s close friend.
Sumanta Naru, pastor of the CNI congregation in Bankuda town, said he is suspicious of the death and secret cremation of Gorai’s body.
“Nobody knows how Madhab died,” Pastor Naru told Morning Star News. “Even the neighbors had last seen him healthy. The Christians were not even called for the cremation. They got rid of his body as soon as they could.”
Pastor Soren said he fears Gorai must have suffered much.
“We do not know what caused his death, but this is for certain, that the family was persecuting him and pressuring him to participate in the Hindu rituals,” Pastor Soren told Morning Star News.
Gorai’s family members were unavailable for comment.
Pastor Naru said Gorai had put his faith in Christ several years ago after learning the gospel from a relative. Keeping the keys of the church building, he would be the first to reach it and open it for Sunday worship, the pastor said.
“Madhab was a sincere Christian. He helped in whatever way possible to contribute and serve the church,” Pastor Naru said.
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’ 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2021. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Modi came to power.