Last week (4 October) a Mumbai court rejected the bail plea of the abductors of a Christian man who was brutally assaulted by a mob of Hindu extremists and then abducted by one of their number.
The assault took place on 16 September 2016 when Prashant Bhatnagar, a 45-year-old Christian, and several other members of the House of God Church, Kharghar in Mumbai were distributing tracts called – Jeevan ka Rahasya (‘The secret of Life’) in a neighbouring area where their Church had recently started an evening service. A passer-by started to question Bhatnagar accused him of attempting to convert Hindus.
“The man’s associates made phone calls and soon a crowd of about 40 gathered around me,” said Prashant Bhatnagar in an interview with Global Christian News.
By then the Pastor of the Church, Jackson George, had been informed. One of the leaders among the crowd belonged to a local Hindu institution and was referred to as a Swami (holy man). He questioned Bhatnagar: “Who is your Patri (Pastor)? The group of Christians were abuse by the group. “We somehow quietened the crowd and left the place for our respective homes,” said Bhatnagar.
After he drove away Bhatnagar’s motorbike broke down and as he was trying to fix it, Pastor Jackson and his family arrived. “Soon we realized that we had been followed by the Hindu extremists who came and encircled us,” he said.
The mob started to manhandle the Christians and grabbed Pastor Jackson from his collar. “Someone from the crowd said, ‘Let’s take him (Bhatnagar), he was the one distributing tracks’…. soon they brought a car near me and the Swami forcibly pushed me inside the car,” said Bhatnagar.
The Hindu extremists deceived the other Christians and told them to go to the police station to settle the matter before the police.
“I along with some Church members reached the police station only to find that Bhatnagar had been abducted and has not been brought to the police station as said,” according to Pastor Jackson George.
Bhatnagar told Global Christian News that he was taken to a secluded place near the Taloja jail and dragged out of the car. The group of extremists took turns to hit Bhatnagar on his legs with iron rods and wooden batons while verbally abusing him. Then one of them went and pulled a revolver from the car and placed it on Bhatnagar’s head, threatening to kill him.
“At that moment, all my fear had vanished, I started to pray and thank God, when suddenly the Swami shouted at me, ‘Stop praying in the name of your Jesus’,” recalled Bhatnagar.
He was beaten on his legs until he fell on the ground. “After I fell, they started to hit me on my back and one of them hit me on my head so hard that my head started to spin and I fell-down semi-conscious. I was in a state where I could not move but I could hear their conversation.”
“One of them said, ‘Let us wake him’ and somebody spat on my face and then urinated on my face and my body,’ said Bhatnagar.
He then heard them say, ‘Let’s burn him’ and someone went and got a bottle of petrol to burn him. Another voice said ‘he is already dead, why burn him’. Saying that they left him there and drove away. But they returned a short while later, “They put me in the car once again, drove me to an isolated place and dumped me in the open in the middle of the night,” said Bhatnagar.
It was around eleven at night when someone noticed Bhatnagar lying on the ground.
“People who found me were really nice to me. They washed me with water and called Pastor Jackson on my request,” said Bhatnagar.
On reaching the place, Jackson rushed Bhatnagar for medical first aid to a hospital and later they went to the Kharghar police station where a formal report was filed.
Bhatnagar was able to name three of his abductors from amongst the mob. But the men have fled and no arrests have yet been made. “The abductors have political and local support”, said Bhatnagar.
“When I last went to the police station, there were some politically connected people present, who were speaking in favour of the abductors and what shocked me was that they had come in the same car, in which I was abducted, and the police did nothing” he added.
“The police are supportive in words but no results are seen so far,” said Bhatnagar in his concluding statement to GCN.