Three women suffered injuries while attackers destroyed church property before a Sunday morning service in Uttarakhand
Christian leaders in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand have demanded strict action against members of a 200-strong mob that attacked a church and injured the faithful in Haridwar district’s Roorkee town.
The Christians were about to begin the Sunday morning prayer service on Oct. 3 when the slogan-shouting mob barged in and started abusing and thrashing them alleging religious conversion activities were being conducted inside the church located in Solanipuram locality.
The attackers were identified as members of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal in the first information report filed by Prio Sadhana Lanse, a leader of the church.
She said three women sustained serious injuries and had to be rushed to a hospital in the state capital, Dehradun, while the men armed with iron rods also destroyed furniture, musical instruments and photographs inside the church.
Lanse said she could recognize many from the mob as they kept threatening her to shut down the church. “We demand strict action against them and police protection for us,” she said.
The police have registered a case against members of the mob under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including rioting, theft, trespassing and voluntarily causing hurt, but no arrests have been made so far. The church has been provided with protection.
“The church that was attacked has been active for the past 30-40 years. It was run by Pastor Lanse who died last year due to Covid-19. His wife and relatives are now running the church,” Reverend Titoo Peter of the Methodist Church told UCA News.
He said Christians in Roorkee enjoy good relations with people of other faiths and this was the first incident of a church being attacked. “It is the handiwork of some bad elements who do not want peace and harmony in the area. We condemn the act,” he added.
Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions. The number of attacks against the community members and their places of worship and other institutions has been on the rise across the country, especially in northern India.
Uttarakhand state became the ninth state to enact a law against religious conversions in 2018. The other states are Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
The anti-religious conversions law requires a person officiating over an act of conversion to inform state officials a month ahead of the ceremony. It also criminalizes any act of conversion using fraud, force, or allurement with jail terms and fines.