NEW DELHI, April 2, 2021 (Morning Star News) – When followers of tribal deities in central India threatened to kill 10 Christian families if they refused to participate in a “re-conversion” ceremony back to their ancestral religion last month, all but 10 Christians fled the village.
“The village gathering threatened to beat us to death if we did not attend the ceremony,” said Raidhar Nag, 21, one of the Christians who fled Chhingur village, Bastar District in Chhattisgarh state. “They stopped us from fetching water from the village well, obtaining the free government ration or even working in our own fields.”
The mob tracked down the 10 Christians who remained, members of four families, and beat them on two occasions, forcing them to recant and worship their deities in the ceremony on March 10, sources said.
Nag said the village leaders had told the Christians that they would no longer be allowed to live in their houses and must leave the village.
“We fled from the village on the day of the ceremony, everyone in their own direction,” Nag told Morning Star News. “Four Christian families hid themselves in the village itself. The villagers frantically searched for all of us on the day of the ceremony and found the members of the four families. They took them along and forcibly sprinkled some water on them as per the tradition and made them worship the tribal deities.”
Pastor Dularam Kashyap of the Methodist Church told Morning Star News that a burial controversy earlier in the month triggered the mob aggression.
Tribal animist Lakhshu Nag had been ill for more than a year, and a few days before his death, he approached Pastor Kashyap for prayer. Nag died in a hospital two days later, and when Christians brought his body back to the village on March 2, Pastor Kashyap said, the villagers refused to allow him to be buried because he had gone to him for prayer.
The villagers assaulted the Christians as they denied Nag a burial place, and when Pastor Kashyap tried to intervene, he too was beaten, he said.
Pastor Kashyap, Senior Pastor Ram Singh of the Methodist Church and other Christians reported the matter to the Darbha police station.
“The police came to the village around 8 p.m. and spoke to the villagers to allow the burial, but the villagers refused to listen to the police,” Pastor Kashyap said.
Lalji Sinha of the Darbha police station told Morning Star News that villagers insisted that Lakhshu Nag’s last rites could not be performed in the village, and that his body must be buried at a site for Christians in another village.
After police left, the villagers caught hold of the Christians and assaulted them again, Raidhar Nag said.
“Lakhshu Nag’s deceased body lay in the village the entire day, from March 2 till the morning of March 3, until the police escorted the Christians to carry the mortal remains to village Chaltipadar,” Raidhar Nag said.