HYDERABAD, India, September 2, 2021 (Morning Star News) – A Christian in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state is in hiding after hard-line Hindu neighbors beat him unconscious with iron rods last month, sources said.
Santosh Kumar, 35, left his home on Aug. 1 shortly after a church elder visited him in Kamaraj Nagar, Karur District. A Hindu neighbor who saw the elder visit him intercepted Kumar on the road shortly thereafter.
“He started shouting at me, ‘Are you a Christian? Why are Christians visiting you?’” Kumar told Morning Star News.
Kumar said the neighbor was drunk, and that he asked him, “What is your problem?” before going on his way, but the Hindu stopped him again and began shouting more loudly. Telling Kumar that India was a Hindu country, he asked the Christian why he still lived there, as Kumar asked him to please let him go on his way.
“He threatened that he would murder me if I did not vacate my rented house immediately,” Kumar said.
Soon two other area Hindus arrived on motorcycles and dragged him to bushes far from the road, he said.
“Two persons were ready with iron rods there,” he told Morning Star News. “Two of them held me up while the others drank alcohol and started beating me with iron rods. They pushed me to the ground with their feet and pelted me with stones. They threatened that if I dared share about Jesus with anybody, they would kill me.”
They had beaten him for about half an hour before he fell unconscious, Kumar said. When he regained consciousness, he called for an ambulance, which arrived 30 minutes later and took him to Karur Government Medical College Hospital. He was treated for severe injuries to his head, stomach and backbone, he said.
“My backbone still hurts,” Kumar said. “The doctors told me that the bony ridge on my left eyebrow has been damaged. I was hospitalized for 17 days.”
The church elder who had visited him, Abel Edward Samuel, said that when he was looking for Kumar’s house, a neighbor who told him where he lived had noticed he was wearing a badge on his shirt that read, “Jesus loves me.”
Learning that Kumar had no money, Samuel left him with 500 rupees, he said.
“Within a few minutes after I left his house, he locked his door and went out to buy some things for his house,” Samuel said. “From the way the assailants intercepted Kumar on the road and attacked him brutally, I think they would have come for me and attacked me along with him had I been there for some more time.”
Vengamedu police officers took Kumar’s statement at the hospital on Aug. 2 and registered a First Information Report against unknown persons under sections of the Indian Penal Code for wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt, acts endangering human life and criminal intimidation, he said.
Kumar said he was able to identify only one of the six assailants, Manoranjit, and had seen the others in the area previously.
“After my discharge from the hospital, I could not gather the courage to return to my home in Kamaraj Nagar,” Kumar told Morning Star News. “I was afraid that if the assailants find me now, they will not spare me alive.”
Police later told him by phone that Manoranjit had filed a counter-complaint against him – a false charge of sexually harassing a mentally disabled woman whom Kumar had found lying unconscious on a road earlier this year, he said. Kumar said he had called shopkeeper and passersby to ensure that the woman was returned home safely.
“It is totally a false allegation,” said Kumar, adding that Manoranjit has several criminal cases pending against him. “She is like a sister, and I have only helped her out of human concern. I never had any wrong intentions towards her.”
The Tamil Nadu representative of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India said they would provide legal assistance to Kumar.
Kumar said he was unemployed and lived in the lower-cost neighborhood as he can afford the rent with some wages from hard labor.
“I am the only person who accepted Christianity in my home,” he said. “I have been living separately from my family so that I would be able to work, attend church and complete my studies without any opposition.”
He now cannot even return to his home to retrieve his clothes, he said.
“I gave keys to a friend and requested him to secretly go and get me a few pairs of clothes from my house,” Kumar told Morning Star News. “I do not have money to even recharge my phone. My heart is very troubled, some kind of fear gripped me. I don’t know what happens tomorrow. I am trying for some jobs to make some money to move to a different house.”
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 10th 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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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Wael Alreweie