A group of about 20 individuals proclaiming India as a Hindu nation allegedly vandalised a church in Delhi and physically assaulted members of the Christian community on Sunday, the local media reported.
The incident took place on 20 August at a church in Delhi’s Tahirpur area. In his complaint to the police, pastor of the Siyyon Prathan Bhawan, Satpal Bhati, said that the attack took place at around 10.40am during a prayer meeting.
According to the First Information Report (FIR) – generally the first step in any police investigation in India – filed by the police, the predominantly Hindu religious mob forcibly entered the church while shouting slogans and proceeded to attack Christians, including women, using sticks.
The complaint said that the mob also vandalised images of Jesus Christ and attempted to tear a Bible. Pastor Bhati told the police that the assailants pulled certain men outside the premises and subjected them to physical assault.
When the mob launched the attack on the church, they allegedly had huge speakers blaring “Hindu rashtra banayenge, Jai Shree Ram (which roughly translates to ‘We will make this nation a Hindu nation; Praise be to Lord Ram’).
“We pray every Sunday, and by us, I mean people from our community gather to pray together and as usual we did the same this Sunday as well”, Pastor Bhati told the media.
“The moment one of my people approached to close the gate (as the mob was making a ruckus with their speakers), a mob of people, including very young kids barged in chanting Jai Shree Ram,” the pastor was quoted as saying by Outlook.
A video shared by Democracy News India, purportedly of the inside of the church, revealed that musical instruments were also subjected to vandalism. Members of the Christian community claimed that drums were deliberately torn using a knife during the incident.
“I hope some investigation is done or else anybody can come and beat us [Christians] up,” Pastor Bhati said.
— Meer Faisal (@meerfaisal01) August 21, 2023
He added: “One of the women who went to rescue the Bible from getting damaged was beaten with the rod. She has been deeply injured.”
One of the victims was quoted as saying by the local media that the mob not only thrashed them but also tried to rip their clothes.
The Wire reported that in Delhi’s GTB Nagar, a crowd of around 100 surrounded the local police station for several hours. During this time, they continued chanting provocative slogans while the pastor and the injured individuals arrived to register their complaint.
A mob of nearly 20 people shouting “Jai Shri Ram” and hailing India as a Hindu nation vandalised a church and assaulted members of the Christian community in Delhi’s Tahirpur on Sunday.
In his complaint to the police, pastor Satpal Bhati said that the attack took place at around…
— Indian American Christians (@Fiacona_us) August 22, 2023
As indicated by a report from the United Christian Forum, the year 2023 has witnessed a total of 155 incidents of violence against Christians across 23 states. Among them, Uttar Pradesh leads with 155 incidents, followed by Chhattisgarh with 84 cases.
In 2014, there were 147 reported cases of church attacks, with the count consistently rising in subsequent years. The previous year alone recorded an alarming 599 assaults on Christians. Within the first 190 days of 2023, there have already been 400 documented attacks, as reported by the Siasat Daily.
The Independent attempted to contact the senior officials at GTB Enclave police station in Delhi under which the jurisdiction of Tahirpur falls for a comment on the vandalisation claims but didn’t receive any response.
3/5 Bhati and a few others went to the GTB Enclave police station to file a complaint where a larger mob of nearly 100 people from Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishva Hindu Parishad gathered outside and shouted “Jai Shri Ram” slogans.
— Syed Hassan Kazim سید حسن کاظم (@kazimtweets) August 21, 2023
“Why were they praying in a Hindu-majority area?” a worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) identified only by his first name Anmol, told The Wire. “Our festival, Rakshabandhan, is coming up in a few days, and we will not allow conversion prayers in our area.” RSS is considered the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The mob later started claiming that the Christians “attacked us first, and they were attempting conversions, which we won’t allow”. Hindu groups who protested outside the police station alleged that the church was carrying out conversions. The police noted both complaints.
On Monday, the police arrested one person in connection with vandalism, the local media reported.