(Morning Star News) – Church members have fled a village in northeast India after a vicious attack this month that seriously injured at least three Christians, including a 7-year-old girl.
A mob of about 100 Hindu extremists armed with swords, bamboo sticks and stones attacked Christians who were eating after a service at 8 p.m. on April 17 in Amtola village, Golpara District, Assam state, church leaders said. At least 15 Christians were injured, many of them wounded on their heads and upper bodies.
“Right now there are no Christians in the village – all have fled,” said the Rev. David Boro of Guwahati. “The Christian families who were the main target of the attack are now in a safe-house after they were released from the hospital. The more critically injured are still in the hospital, and when they will be released, they too will join the others in the safe-house.”
The village is no longer safe, and in any event the families have no homes to go back to, church leaders said.
“Not satisfied with merely beating the Christians, the mob led by Hindu extremists broke and destroyed the homes of these Christian families,” said another Christian leader, Kamleshwar Baglary. “All together, five houses have been completely destroyed along with household items.”
The 7-year-old girl, Pranita Rabha, suffered serious chest injuries and clots in her brain due to the beating, church leaders said. She and two other Christians were rushed to Guwahati, the state capital, for medical treatment at Guwahati Medical College.
“The attackers did not even spare women and children but beat them mercilessly with the intention to kill,” Boro said.
Less seriously injured Christians received treatment at the district hospital in Golpara, church leaders said. Only three to four church members were unhurt as they ran away when the attack began.
Hostilities against the church began last year after Christian prayer healed a villager of cancer, leading five families from the Rabha clan to begin attending worship services, Baglary said. Since December 2014, there have been five attacks on the new Christians in the village, he said.
“Out of the five families who had declared themselves as Christians, two have gone back because of the constant attacks and social pressure against them,” Baglary said. “Members of the Hindu extremist groups earlier also had physically attacked these families during the time of the Bihu [Assam’s cultural] festival.”
In January Christians filed a First Information Report on the attacks, but police took no action, he said.
“The village elders are against the Christians and under the influence of Hindu extremist groups,” Baglary added. “This time, the Hindu extremists used the extended Rabha family against the Christians. They instigated the rest of the clan against them, so the Rabha family led the attack with the Hindu extremists and villagers following them.”
Police arrived well after the mob had beaten the Christians and had burned their homes, Boro said.
“They simply arrested two Christians who had been beaten a lot and taken to prison, while they took no action against the attackers or their leaders,” Boro said.
The two Christians were arrested in connection with the death of one of the assailants, though no charges have been filed, church leaders said.
“During the attack, as a result of the pandemonium, one of the attackers, fell head first on the stony surface and later died,” Boro said.
The Rev. Vijayesh Lal of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s (EFI) Religious Liberty Commission said the brutality of the incident was shocking.
“The way children have been beaten up mercilessly shows the extent of hate created by external elements,” he said. “We have written to the chief minister of Assam, appealing to him for intervention in the case.”
The EFI documented four incidents of persecution against the Christian community in 2014, “but this latest incident surpasses them all in terms of the magnitude of the violence,” Lal said.
Those injured were identified as: Harin Rabha, male, 45; Nimai Rabha, female, 40; Parbati Rabha, female, 17; Sandani Rabha, female, 22; Pranita Rabha, female, 7; Purnima Rabha, female, 3; Umed Rabha, male, 32; Sefali Rabha, female, 30; Sanda Rabha, 21; Nipon Rabha, male, 27; Gita Rabha, female, 22; Sanakya Rabha, male, 20; Mahendra Rabha, male, 24; Bonis Rabha, female, 10; and Nripol Rabha, male, 26.
Christians number 986,589 and constitute 3.7 percent of the population of Assam, according to the last census.