NEW DELHI, June 3, 2021 (Morning Star News) – Relatives of a pastor in northern India killed his Christian father with axe and sword blows and seriously wounded the church leader and his brother for leaving tribal religion, sources said.
While local media and police portrayed the May 18 attack in Rajasthan state as a dispute over land, Pastor Ramesh Bumbariya said his step-uncles and cousins assaulted his family for their faith because they left animistic tribal religion for Christianity in 2007.
“My cousins and their families insist that we abandon our Christian faith and follow the ancestral faith,” Pastor Bumbariya told Morning Star News. “When we refused and remained firm in our Christian beliefs, they began to create trouble for us by raising land issues.”
When a group of relatives including men, women and children attacked his home in Thep village, Khajooria, Kotra, Udaipur District, armed with guns, axe, swords and wooden clubs, they first struck the pastor’s father, Bhima Bumbariya, who was outside the house, he said.
“They killed my father, and they wanted to kill me also,” Pastor Bumbariya said.
The First Information Report (FIR) the Christian family filed with police states that the assailants first fired three rounds of gunfire that missed, then struck the pastor’s father with an axe and later with swords, resulting in his death.
“After they struck me thrice on my head with an axe and a sword on my neck, I fell on the ground unconscious, but they continued to strike me with the sword on my hand and my back,” Pastor Bumbariya said. “They stopped hitting me only when their swords began to bend. They left thinking I was dead.”
The assailants also attacked the pastor’s brother, Raj Kumar Bumbariya, uncle Naniya Bumbariya and two others. The 29-year-old pastor, his four children and wife lived in the house along with his parents and brother, all Christians.
The animist assailants were led by his father’s brother, who lives in a nearby village.
“They used swords and axe on all of them, cutting and chopping chunks of their flesh,” area pastor Mohan M. Raj told Morning Star News.
Doctors at Maharana Bhupal Government Hospital in Udaipur City declared Bhima Bumbariya dead on arrival.
The wounded pastor and his brother were first taken to Primary Health Care Center in Mandwa, but no doctors were available. They were given first aid at Community Health Center in Kotra, and Pastor Bumbariya, his uncle and his father were referred to the Maharana Bhupal Government Hospital in Udaipur City, according to the FIR.
Pastor Bumbariya sustained serious head injuries and underwent surgery for a broken bone in his right hand, while his uncle Naniya Bumbariya also sustained serious head wounds, according to medical reports.
The pastor’s family and the assailants registered cases on the same day at Mandwa police station, and the seven relatives identified in the Christians’ case have been arrested, said Officer Man Singh Chouhan. In the FIR registered by the pastor’s brother, Raj Kumar Bumbariya, the suspects were charged under the Indian Penal Code for murder, attempt to murder, being armed with a deadly weapon, rioting, unlawful assembly, endangering human life, house-trespass and voluntarily causing hurt.
They were also charged under the Arms Act for failing to surrender a license, acquiring prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition and selling or transferring any firearm, ammunition.
“All the seven attackers have been arrested and are in jail,” Chouhan told Morning Star News. “Two local guns, a sword, an axe and two thick wooden logs have been recovered from them.”
Regarding the counter FIR filed against the pastor and his family, Chouhan said, “No action has been taken regarding this FIR yet, as they are in the period of mourning the death of their father.”
Pastor Bumbariya said he has not gone back home since his father was killed.
“I have not seen my mother since the attack,” he told Morning Star News, in tears. “I have not even comforted her at my father’s death.”
He has taken shelter with relatives along with his wife and three of their children, ages 5, 3 and 2, while their 7-year-old is staying with the pastor’s mother.
He and his uncle were hospitalized on May 18, with Pastor Bumbariya undergoing surgery on May 22. Before the surgery, doctors had to give him three bottles of blood, said Pastor Raj.
“He had lost a lot of blood because of his head, hand and injuries on other parts of the body,” he said.
Pastor Bumbariya was discharged on May 24 but has often fallen unconscious when talking or sitting up for few minutes.
When he went to give his police statement on May 28, the superintendent of police was not available, Pastor Bumbariya said.
The attackers are stepbrothers of Bhima Bumbariya, who previously lived in the same village as them, Kala Khetar, the pastor said.
While growing up, Pastor Bumbariya fell ill with the same symptoms of an illness that had taken the lives of three sisters and a brother. His father, Bhima Bumbariya, had no money to treat him and contemplated killing himself, his wife and remaining children when he heard about miraculous healing at a church and took them to a worship service.
“It was my third Sunday at the church and I was completely healed from my sickness,” Pastor Bumbariya said, saying the family soon became Christians. “Our faith in Christ blessed us, and we began to prosper in all the works that we did. Soon we had a house of our own and farmland.”
Envious of how they had become prosperous as Christians, his father’s stepfamily began to pick fights with them, and Pastor Bumbariya’s family left the village in 2017 to avoid the constant arguments and strife, he said.
They built a small house five miles away in Thep village, but the pastor’s step-uncles and cousins continued to trouble them, demanding that they leave there as well, he said.
He registered complaints against the relatives in 2017, 2018 and in 2020, but police took no action, the pastor said.
“On May 4, 2021, they came and assaulted us,” he said. “I went to the police station and submitted a complaint, but no action was taken…My father was also beaten thrice in the past.”
After putting his faith in Christ in 2007, Pastor Bumbariya attended three years of Bible training and assisted pastors for a few years before returning to Thep village and starting a fellowship in his house. With a year, about 100 people with a 10-mile radius were attending services, he said.
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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