Hindu extremists attacked two Christian pastors and a 62 year old grieving Hindu man by the name of Lalji Vishwakarma in the upper-caste Thakur community in Phoolpur, Uttar Pradesh, a province located in the northern part of India. The pastors were then thrown into jail, along with the wife of one of the pastors.
On August 3, neighbors of Vishwakarma who were Hindu extremists charged at his house, falsely accused the Christian pastors of forced conversions and proceeded to beat them and the grieving man who lost his family to COVID.
"A mob of Hindu extremist neighbors from the Thakur community barged inside the house and falsely accused me and the pastors visiting my house of forced conversions," Vishwakarma recounted the events to Morning Star News, as reported by the Christian Headlines. "They have no pity that I have been grieving my family's death."
The two Christian pastors were identified as Neel Durai and Vijay Kumar Patel, who was accompanied by his wife Kiran Devi, who had visited Vishwakarma to pray for him and his granddaughters.
"I lost my wife, son and daughter-in-law to COVID one after the other," Vishwakarma said. "My young granddaughters, ages 10 and 12, and I were longing for God's servants to visit us, pray for us and comfort us."
But no one else joined him in prayer. Instead, they were prayed for by the Christians, who visited Vishwakarma and his granddaughters. They witnessed the pastors reading from the Bible and praying to God for Him to bring comfort and peace to the grieving family. Vishwakarma recounted how a shopkeeper who runs a small grocery store nearby heard them praying and knocked on the door to find out what was going inside.
When Vishwakarma reassured the shopkeeper that they were merely "praying for peace in our hearts since we lost our family members," the shopkeeper was dissatisfied and brought about "the mob of upper-caste neighbors." He was alarmed when he saw Vishwakarma and the Christian pastors holding Bibles in their hands.
In just 20 minutes, Vishwakarma's house was surrounded by Hindu extremists who barged into his home. He recalled, "They started shouting, raising their voices to high pitches," saying that he tried to reassure them that they were only praying "for peace" but they paid no attention. The Hindu extremists accused them of "forced conversions and started beating the pastors" and even Vishwakarma's children.
Vishwakarma said they reviled him in foul language and accused him of wanting to "try a new faith" after his family passed from COVID. The Hindu man defended himself by saying that his wife and son used to "occasionally attend prayers." He added, "We heard about Christ but did not renounce any religion or religious practices. We were afraid of the society as we live in a Hindu-dominant area."
Neighbors who were part of the mob of assailants told the Hindu extremists that Vishwakarma's family was cursed, which was why they were all getting sick and dying from COVID. Following the attack, the children have been sent to a relative's house, leaving Vishwakarma to fend for himself alone.
Christian Pastor Durai, who was from Tamil Nadu and Pastor Patel and his wife were all charged by Indian police for forcible conversion. The police also registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the three Christians under non-bailable offenses of the Indian Penal Code against "promoting enmity between classes" (Section 153A) and "maliciously insulting the religion or the religious beliefs of any class" (Section 295A).
A judge at the Magistrate Court rejected bail for the Christians on August 5, after which a plea was filed before the District Sessions. Christians in India have faced increased persecution in recent years. According to UCA News, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) found that 145 incidents of anti-Christian persecution had occured in India in the first half of 2021 alone.