A pastor and five Christians were arrested in the middle of the Christmas service being on 28 December 2016 in Singhpur village of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. Three of them were sent to jail.
A mob of about 60 men belonging to the Hindu Yuva Vahini (Hindu Youth Brigade) and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or National Volunteer Corps) disrupted the Christmas Service shouting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Victory be to god Ram) and attacked the crowd that had gathered to participate in the Christmas celebrations.
The event which was well planned and organised by Pastor Chotelal Chauhan, the local Pastor of the Church, had a gathering of more than 500 people who had congregated to celebrate Christmas along with the guest speaker Pastor Ramesh Kumar of Missions India who was bringing the Christmas message and Jairam Maurya – a gospel singer from Lalganj sub-district in Azamgarh.
The Hindu extremists started to manhandle the Pastor, his wife, the dignitaries of the dais and the crowd. They began to pull and push women and children alike and attacked them with wooden sticks, hands and fists. “The police arrived at the spot and completely favoured the attackers,” said Dinanath Jaiswar who informed Global Christian News of the incident.
“After the attackers found no basis for their attack, they said that the dinner being cooked for the entire crowd attending the program consisted of cow meat (beef),” said Jaiswar.
Exasperated with the kind of treatment that the minority Christian community receives at the hands of Hindu Extremists and the impunity with which they attack Christians especially now that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party is in power, Jaiswar said, “The police arrested six Christians without specifying any charges against them but not even a single attacker was arrested.”
Charges were later pressed on all the six arrested Christians under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) sections 107 (apprehension of breach of peace and tranquillity of an area), 151 (arrest without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant), and 116 (inquiry as to truth of information).
The six arrested by the Mehanagar Police were – Pastor Chotelal Chauhan, his father Rambrat Chauhan, his wife Munia Chauhan, Pastor Ramesh Kumar, Mr Jairam Maurya, and Mr Ramchandar.
“All six were directly presented before the magistrate. The lady Munia Chauhan, along with two others was bailed out but the other three were sent to jail,” said Jaiswar.
Jaiswar reached Azamgarh and approached the court for the bail of the three Christians for two consecutive days but failed. He describes this whole incident as one of its kind, “I have never come across such an incident before,” he said. “About 60 – 70 RSS men along with 5 lawyers were present in the court on 30 December 2016, to pressurize and coerce the magistrate to not to grant bail to the Christians.”
After much effort and persuasion Jaiswar was able to get the orders of their bail by the evening of 31 December 2016.
Jaiswar highlights that he has handled about 40 cases of Christian persecution in Uttar Pradesh alone from January 2016 till 31 December 2016 and wonders what kind of a year 2017 would be for the peace loving Christian community.