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Christian Pastor Paraded, Injured and Forced To Perform Hindu Ritual

Posted by on April 22, 2021 — Drop A Comment


Pastor Sanjay Bhandari had taken
his wife for a medical check-up
earlier this month when they
decided to visit her sister in the
same area in Karnataka state,
southwest India – only to be
attacked as they were drinking tea.
“While we were still having tea, a
few men barged inside the house
and, grabbing me by my shirt collar,
they dragged me outside, accusing
me of carrying out conversions,”
Pastor Bhandari told Morning Star
News. “I tried very hard to explain
that it was my relatives’ house, and
that we were only paying them a
casual visit, but the men refused to
listen.”
The Hindu extremists in Halaga
village, near Belgaum city, Belgaum
District also ignored the pleas of his
wife’s family that day, April 5. The
men took Pastor Bhandari outside,
where 50 to 60 Hindu extremists
were waiting, he said.
The mob paraded him a mile to the
rented worship hall where he has
led Sunday services for five years,
hitting and kicking him along the
way, he said.
“They continued to hit me as they
dragged me,” said Pastor Bhandari,
a resident of Belgaum city. “They
abused me and Jesus Christ in filthy
language and pressured me to hail,
‘ Jai Sri Ram [Hail lord Ram],’ as they
beat me.”
The mob accused him of converting
their community to Christianity and
trying to convert the family he was
visiting – though they are already
Christian, he said.
“They hit me on my private parts,
my face, chest and all over my body,
accusing me of trying to convert my
sister-in-law,” Pastor Bhandari told
Morning Star News. “I tried telling
them that the home belongs to my
sister-in-law, and that they are
already Christians and members of
my church.”
The beating and slapping damaged
one of his eardrums, he said,
causing loss of hearing in that ear.
Shouting Hindu slogans, the mob
accused the pastor of converting
Santosh Satpute, formerly a Hindu.
Satpute told Morning Star News he
went before the mob and told them
he believed in Christ of his own free
will, and that nobody had forced
him to change his religion.
Satpute said the mob assaulted him
as he tried to help Pastor Bhandari.
“When we tried to rescue Pastor
Sanjay, the mob assaulted me along
with Pastor Sanjay, his wife, and his
brother Bhimshen,” Satpute said. “I
was hurt on my chest and my ear.”
The pastor’s wife was manhandled
as she tried to shield her husband
from the assault, he said. The 42-
year-old Bhimshen Bhandari was
also injured in the attack.
Upon arriving at the building, the
assailants pushed their way in to
climb the staircase to the worship
hall, but the owner of the building, a
Hindu, sternly warned them that if
they continued he would call police.
The mob desisted from entering the
worship hall but began to perform
Hindu rituals on Pastor Bhandari,
he said.
“They applied Kumkum [vermillion]
and haldi [turmeric] and dusted it
on my head and made marks on my
forehead,” Pastor Bhandari said.
Kumkum is a red powder, 95 percent
turmeric and 5 percent limestone,
used to make the distinctive Hindu
mark on the forehead. Hindu
husbands usually apply it on their
wives where their hair is parted,
and the mob tried to force Pastor
Bhandari to do so.
When he refused, they told him that
if he persisted, then one of them
would do it, he said.
“When they threatened to apply the
Kumkum, I applied it on her forehead
but did not fill it in the partition of
her hair,” Pastor Bhandari said.
Satpute said he was a distraught
eyewitness to the ordeal.
“They tortured Pastor Sanjay
physically and mentally,” he told
Morning Star News. “He was forced
to perform Hindu rituals against his
free will. The harassment and
torture he went through is beyond
description.”
The pastor insisted that they go to
police to discuss the matter, and the
mob left after warning him not to be
seen in the area again.
“They warned that they would chop
me to pieces if I conduct church
again,” Pastor Bhandari said.
“Saying that, they dispersed and
disappeared.”
Area Christian leaders strongly
condemned the attack.
“Initially churches and Christian
gatherings were attacked – it is
extremely shocking that now a
personal visit to your own relative’s
house is also objectionable, and you
can face the brutality of the Hindu
goons,” the Rev. T. Thomas,
president of the Belgaum Karnataka
Pastors Association, told Morning
Star News. “We will not keep silent.
We will take this up with the
authorities.”
Pastor Bhandari said he has
pastored the independent church for
seven years without any opposition.
He said he was shocked to see two
people with whom he had enjoyed
good relations among the assailants.
“I have been to their homes and
have sat and had meals at their
homes,” Pastor Bhandari said. “I
was very shocked to see them
among my assaulters.”
Charges Filed
When Pastor Bhandari initially went
to the Shahapura police station, he
was instructed to first go to a
government hospital, and that police
would then take action based on his
medical report, he said.
He was hospitalized at the Belgaum
Institute of Medical Sciences (BIMS)
for treatment of his ear, private
parts and injuries to his left
shoulder and chest. Discharged on
April 10, he continues treatment and
medical examinations.
After initial hesitancy by police,
Christian leaders on April 6
persuaded officers at the Shahapura
police station to file charges against
seven assailants for unlawful
assembly, rioting, voluntarily
causing hurt, wrongful restraint,
provocation and criminal
intimidation under the Indian Penal
Code (First Information Report No.
0020/2021).
Pastor Bhandari’s attorney, M.
Ramesh, told Morning Star News
that only after giving a
memorandum to higher officials did
police register the pastor’s
complaint.
“On the evening of the incident, we
gave a memorandum to the Deputy
Commissioner of Belgaum,” Ramesh
said. “I spoke to the media directly,
and it was only then that the FIR
was registered.”
No arrests have been made,
according to the investigating officer
at the Shahapura station. No action
has been taken at this writing.
Though there have been no arrests,
the investigating officer, identified
only as Raghvendra, said the station
has issued notice to the seven
suspects to appear before police. He
said the investigation was complete.
“We have done all the investigation
proceedings. We are waiting for the
wound certificate from the hospital,
and then we will immediately send
the charge sheet to the court,”
Raghvendra told Morning Star
News. “We have given requisition to
the hospital in writing and are
waiting to hear from them; only
then we can proceed.”
A staff member at the BIMS hospital
declined to give information about
Pastor Bhandari, citing
confidentiality.
The pastor’s attorney repudiated the
police delays.
“We will have to fight on higher
levels to be heard,” Ramesh told
Morning Star News. “They are
intentionally targeting the Christian
community, pastors and followers of
the faith. They are working under a
well-planned strategy.”
Pastor Thomas added that Christians
have been targeted in eight incidents
in the district, though police have
filed FIRs in only two of them.
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 10 th on Christian
support organization Open Doors’
2021 World Watch List of the
countries where it is most difficult to
be a Christian, as it was in 2020. The
country was 31st in 2013, but its
position worsened after Modi came
to power.


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