Christians living in the Chhattisgarh state in India were assaulted by Hindu extremists while participating in a prayer service. The radicals bullied, threatened, and attacked citizens attending the event, including women.
The Tarra Kopra village prayer service was blocked by Hindu extremists from the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). The radicals set-up roadblocks along the roads leading to the venue earlier this month, according to a Morning Star News report.
Pastor Sahu said that a Hindu event called Ram Kathan was taking place in nearby Tarra Kopra. When a citizen would reach the illegal checkpoints, the extremists asked which event the person was attending. They were allowed to pass if they were going to the Hindu event, but accosted if they were heading to the Christian event.
“If they said they were going to the church service, they were shooed away, and if they tried to reason with them, they were threatened and manhandled," Pastor Sahu told the press. “Those who came to attend the Ram Kathan were allowed to enter the village and proceed straight to the Ram Kathan venue.”
He added that the extremists were especially rough with the Christian women. “The people who were not allowed entry into the village later reported to me that the women were caught by their throats, and their clothes were pulled in order to threaten them,” he said.
When the prayer service started, only 300 people were in attendance, though they expected at least 2,000. The extremists set-up a sound system outside the entrance where they shouted that they would kill those inside.
When that did not work, the extremists formed a mob of about 500 and attacked the event. They damaged people’s vehicles, equipment, chairs, windows, and assaulted several of the parishioners.
“While breaking the chairs, they threw the chairs on some worshippers who tried to stop them, causing them minor injuries," Pastor Sahu said. “But before they could reach the main hall and attack the worshippers sitting inside, the police arrived.”
The extremists fled at the sight of the authorities, and the worship service continued. No one was seriously injured. Three men were kidnapped, but were returned safely later in the evening.
Pastor Sahu told Morning Star News that he was informed the VHP and their youth wing Bajrang Dal had been planning their assault for five days. “They discussed that I was the one carrying out most conversions in Chhattisgarh. But I was determined to obey [God's] leading, despite strong opposition, and I praise God that my meeting was a success. The policemen did not interrupt the on-going prayer, and I was allowed to carry it out as scheduled.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the assault, but the police have been providing security for the services.
Initially, the press described the incident as a clash between the two groups despite eyewitness accounts that the Christians did not provoke the assault or retaliate against the Hindu extremists.