A pastor in Uttar Pradesh received serious injuries after Hindu extremists pulled him out of his church during Sunday worship on the pretext of taking him to the police station.
Pastor Abhay Sagar, 37, was assaulted before being handed over to police in Biswan, Sitapur on Sunday 24 September, 2017.
He was conducting regular Sunday worship when a mob of Hindu extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal (an extremist and militant Hindu organisation that forms the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) family of organisations) entered the church and disrupted the service.
“They were about 15 men who disrupted the service after about half an hour of its commencement. They took me with them insisting that they want to talk to me. Some of them stayed back and started to question my congregation and mistreat women. When they brought me out, there were more Hindu extremists waiting for me and they began to shout slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram (Hail lord Rama)’,” said Pastor Abhay Sagar in an interview with Global Christian News.
“They started to abuse me and said that I forcefully convert people and preach this foreign religion. They insisted on taking me to the police station and I complied to talk the matter out,” added Sagar.
There were about 10-15 motorcycles that were parked in the premises. The extremists put Sagar on one of them and all of them headed towards the police station which is less than a kilometre from Sagar’s Church.
“There were a few others waiting at a sharp turn and these bikers stopped there. As soon as we stopped, someone hit me very hard from behind. I could not see who he was and neither do I know what he hit me with? I was hit on my right ear, neck and cheek. The massive hit left me dizzy and with excruciating pain in my ear. I immediately lost hearing power in my right ear and my nose began to bleed. I went into a semi-conscious state,” said Sagar.
The extremists pounced on Sagar from every side and started to hit him with hands, fists and legs. The first hit had put him in so much pain that he could not see who was hitting him and with what.
He was hit on his chest because of which he is facing breathing issues now as-well-as pain in the chest.
“One of them hit me repeatedly with his leg on my private parts due to which I am in severe pain and have developed inflammation,” said Sagar who has not been given proper medical treatment until the writing of this report.
He was not sent for a medical examination (which is mandatory in such cases) until Monday afternoon till Global Christian News (India) intervened in the matter and spoke to the Superintendent of Police (Biswan).
A complaint was filed against Sagar and he was charged under Indian Penal Code sections 295A (Deliberately insulting religious beliefs of others) and 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy).
Several leaders of the Bajrang Dal and RSS came and visited Sagar until 11 same night, putting pressure on the police to take stringent action against the Pastor. “Looking at me they said, ‘Okay is this the person who carries out conversion; come let us now convert him to Hinduism’,” revealed Sagar.
The Hindu extremists shouted slogans, pressurised the police constantly and threatened the Christians waiting outside the police station by warning them that ‘jail’ is the fate of those who follow the teachings of Pastor Abhay.
Sagar reported that the Hindu extremists seized Bibles, donation box and two record books kept inside the Church, “One was a visitor register containing the record of all the members of my Church having their address, phone numbers and their personal testimonies.
“This was a record containing details of 750 members from past 9 years. The second record book contained the details of all the new members of the Church.
“The Bajrang Dal members handed over the donation box at the police station but did not surrender the record books and the Bibles,” said Sagar with much concern fearing misuse of the records of people, many of whom are yet not strong in their faith.
The Superintendent of Police (Biswan) told Global Christian News: “At first we thought that this case
was of ‘forceful conversion’ but now investigations are revealing that it was a regular Church service and no ‘forceful conversion’ was taking place”.
Abhay Sagar’s wife, Francisca Sagar filed a complaint against the attackers naming four of those who led the attack against her husband. A counter-case has been registered against them under IPC section 147, 354B, 323, 504, 506 on 25 September, though no arrests have been reported yet.
Sagar testified to Global Christian News that three policemen came to Sagar privately and enquired about his faith. “They shared with me their personal problems and requested me to pray for them. I prayed for them while in police custody”.
“After the immediate intervention of Global Christian News and volunteers from the Evangelical Fellowship of India the police removed the charges against me and sent me home on 25 September,” said Sagar thanking the organisations and individuals who came forward to help him.
Sagar has been instructed by the police to suspend Church services until the matter is settled.
The Holy Family Church is conducted in one of the halls on the third floor of the BNSD Public School building and Sagar, along with his wife and children (seven-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter) live on the fourth (top) floor in the same building.
Sagar is associated with the UP Mission since the year 2000 after serving with the Campus Crusade earlier.