Outlandish pronouncements like ‘Ye desh dharm nirpeksh nahi raha hai, yahan ab kanoon badal gaya hai’ (which translates to ‘This country is no longer secular, the rules have changed now’) and constant targeting at the hands of the Hindu right-wing day-after-day has pushed the Christian minority community in India to question the safety of their existence in their own country.
In a shocking incident last week, a mob of more than 100 people from the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) gathered in front of Guru Teg Bahadur Enclave police station in the capital of the country shouting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (which means, ‘Hail lord Ram’) against the Christian community attempting to report assault by the same mob while their Sunday church service was being held.
In the morning of August 20, while the Christians were engaged in prayer inside Siyyon Prathna Bhawan in the Tahirpur area, a few individuals wielding loudspeakers forcibly entered the premises, blaring the words “Hindu rashtra banayenge, Jai Shri Ram” (which translates to ‘We will make a Hindu nation, hail lord Ram’).
Shivam, an eyewitness present during the prayer, recounted that the intruders claimed that the country had changed and was no longer secular, shouting the phrase in Hindi: “ye desh dharm nirpeksh nahi raha hai, yahan ab kanoon badal gaya hai.”
Shivam, one of the first to seek help at the police station, reported that the mob, armed with swords and sticks, entered without permission, and attacked those praying, causing injuries to many, including women. Some women, choosing to remain anonymous, asserted that they were assaulted by the Bajrang Dal group and that attempts were made to strip them.
The church was vandalised, and Bible was torn.
A WhatsApp video circulated widely after the incident shows extensive damage within the church, including desecration of Bibles and religious images. The video also shows the crowd outside the police station shouting religious slogans.
An individual named Anmol, an RSS worker, questioned why prayer was held in a Hindu-majority area, claiming that upcoming Hindu festival Rakshabandhan was reason enough to prevent prayers.
Later, the right-wing group alleged that they were attacked first and that conversion attempts were being made, something they said they will not tolerate.
Speaking to the media, the church’s pastor, Pastor Satpal Bhati, voiced his great worry for the safety of citizens in the nation as well as the anxiety felt by the Christian community. On August 20, he filed a first information report (FIR) at the G.T.B. Enclave police station with with FIR No. 438.
On August 21, a Hindu right-wing woman who only went by the name Kiran filed a countercomplaint with the same police station under FIR No. 439.
A report from the United Christian Forum (UCF) disclosed an alarming surge in attacks against Christians since 2014. In 2014, there were 147 attacks on churches, and this number has risen each year. The report notes 599 attacks last year and 400 recorded incidents in the first 190 days of 2023. The violence spanned 23 states, with Uttar Pradesh leading at 155 incidents and Chhattisgarh following with 84 incidents.