Approximately 15 Christians were attacked by right-wing
Hindu fundamentalists in Sukma District, Chhattisgarh on 21 October.
Local sources report that a mob burst into a private home where the Christians had gathered for a prayer meeting at around 9pm. The mob is said to have physically assaulted those gathered and demanded that they forsake their religion. The victims, who sustained minor injuries, later alleged that an off-duty police officer was also among the attackers.
Immediately after the attack, the victims attempted to register a First Information Report (FIR), which is required for the police to open an investigation, at the Golampalli Police Station in Sukma district. However, as the area is under the influence of Naxalite insurgents, there is a government order in place that means police personnel are not on duty after 6pm so the victims were unable to contact the police.
The victims proceeded to contact the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CGCF) on the evening of 21 October, who in turn contacted the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Sukma District. The SP directed the victims to go to the police station the following morning and assured them that the police would take action.
The Christians followed the SP’s directions and went to the police station on the morning of 22 October to file a complaint so that the police could register an FIR, however the Station House Officer (SHO) is said to have verbally abused them and insulted their religion and caste. The SHO refused to accept their complaint and did not file the requisite medico-legal case which would have enabled an investigation into the injuries caused to the Christians. The SHO also failed to respond to subsequent contact from the CGCF.
On 23 October, the victims returned to the police station to register their complaint, however, on orders of the SHO, two police officers known only to CSW as Major and Kitto, the latter of whom is said to have been among the mob that carried out the initial attack, beat the complainants thoroughly. The victims included women and a Christian constable from the same police station who also worked as a pastor and had been among those assaulted on 21 October.
At present, the Christians’ complaint has still not been registered even after the matter was reported to the Director General of Police, Inspector General and Superintendent of Police. The SHO even claimed that he had orders from his superiors not to register FIRs in relation to incidents of Christian oppression in the district.
On 25 October, the CGCF received further information that the government had suspended three police personnel including the Christian constable who was assaulted. The President of the CGCF Arun Pannalal told CSW that the three police personnel were arrested under Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code, which is generally used in cases where two communities have fought against one another, rather than in incidents such as these in which one group has clearly targeted another.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The persistent targeting of Christians by right wing religious fundamentalists, including in their own homes, is extremely worrying, as are frequent allegations of law enforcement complicity in attacks perpetrated against religious minorities. We urge authorities in Chhattisgarh to take firm legal action against police personnel who have had a hand in such incidents and urge the government to issue a clear message that such behaviour by law enforcement officers will not be tolerated. We also call on the authorities to ensure that the victims of this attack receive all the necessary medical and legal support they require, and to provide assurances that they can gather safely to practice their religion in public and in private.”